Antler size in red deer: Heritability and selection but no evolution

L E B Kruuk, J Slate, J M Pemberton, S Brotherstone, F Guinness, T Clutton-Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We present estimates of the selection on and the heritability of a male secondary sexual weapon in a wild population: antler size in red deer. Male red deer with large antlers had increased lifetime breeding success, both before and after correcting for body size, generating a standardized selection gradient of 0.44 (+/-0.18 SE). Despite substantial age- and environment-related variation, antler size was also heritable (heritability of antler mass = 0.33 +/- 0.12). However the observed selection did not generate an evolutionary response in antler size over the study period of nearly 30 years, and there was no evidence of a positive genetic correlation between antler size and fitness nor of a positive association between breeding values for antler size and fitness. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that a heritable trait under directional selection will not evolve if associations between the measured trait and fitness are determined by environmental covariances: In red deer males, for example, both antler size and success in the fights for mates may be heavily dependent on an individual's nutritional state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1683-1695
Number of pages13
JournalEvolution
Volume56
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002

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