Testing for microevolution in body size in three blue tit populations


Anne Charmantier, Department of Zoology, Edward Grey Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.
Tel.: +44 1865 281995; fax: +44 1865 271168;
e-mail: anne.charmantier@zoology.oxford.ac.uk


Quantifying the genetic variation and selection acting on phenotypes is a prerequisite for understanding microevolutionary processes. Surprisingly, long-term comparisons across conspecific populations exposed to different environments are still lacking, hampering evolutionary studies of population differentiation in natural conditions. Here, we present analyses of additive genetic variation and selection using two body-size traits in three blue tit (Parus caeruleus) populations from distinct habitats. Chick tarsus length and body mass at fledging showed substantial levels of genetic variation in the three populations. Estimated heritabilities of body mass increased with habitat quality. The poorer habitats showed weak positive selection on tarsus length, and strong positive selection on body mass, but there was no significant selection on either trait in the good habitat. However, there was no evidence of any microevolutionary response to selection in any population during the study periods. Potential explanations for this absence of a response to selection are discussed, including the effects of spatial heterogeneity associated with gene flow between habitats.