Heritability of life-history tactics and genetic correlation with body size in a natural population of brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis)


Julian J. Dodson, Département de biologie, Université Laval, Cité Universitaire, Québec, Qc, G1K 7P4, Canada.
Tel.: (418) 656 3289; fax: (418) 656 2043; e-mail: julian.dodson@bio.ulaval.ca


A common dimorphism in life-history tactic in salmonids is the presence of an anadromous pathway involving a migration to sea followed by a freshwater reproduction, along with an entirely freshwater resident tactic. Although common, the genetic and environmental influence on the adoption of a particular life-history tactic has rarely been studied under natural conditions. Here, we used sibship-reconstruction based on microsatellite data and an ‘animal model’ approach to estimate the additive genetic basis of the life-history tactic adopted (anadromy vs. residency) in a natural population of brook charr, Salvelinus fontinalis. We also assess its genetic correlation with phenotypic correlated traits, body size and body shape. Significant heritability was observed for life-history tactic (varying from 0.52 to 0.56 depending on the pedigree scenario adopted) as well as for body size (from 0.44 to 0.50). There was also a significant genetic correlation between these two traits, whereby anadromous fish were genetically associated with bigger size at age 1 (rG = −0.52 and −0.61). Our findings thus indicate that life-history tactics in this population have the potential to evolve in response to selection acting on the tactic itself or indirectly via selection on body size. This study is one of the very few to have successfully used sibship-reconstruction to estimate quantitative genetic parameters under wild conditions.