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Quantitative genetics of basal metabolic rate and body mass in free-living pied flycatchers



Andrey V. Bushuev, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Faculty of Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119991 Moscow, Russia



Despite basal metabolic rate (BMR) being one of the most commonly measured physiological traits and an important indicator of competitive ability, very little is known about its genetic basis and relation to other physiological traits. Here, we present the first attempt to estimate the multivariate basis of BMR using a natural population of pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca breeding in the Tomsk Region, Western Siberia. We show relatively high and significant heritability of whole-organism BMR, mass-specific BMR and mass-independent BMR (h 2 = 0.43, 0.55 and 0.52, respectively), which indicates the potential of these energetic traits to respond to direct selection. In contrast to some previous reports, we found that the genetic correlations between body mass and all three measures of BMR were not significantly different from zero. Independent evolution of body mass and BMR in this species should therefore be possible. Following a previous report, we also estimated the genetic correlations between the different BMR measures and show they are all close to unity, suggesting that they are, from a genetic point of view, a similar trait. Our results are in contrast with previous studies measuring the genetic basis of metabolic rates using aviary-bred birds and highlight the importance of considering BMR in a natural setting.