Countervailing selection in different fitness components in female red deer


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In individually monitored red deer (Cervus elaphus) living in the North Block of the Isle of Rhum, Scotland, juvenile survival is related to the genotype at the enzyme loci Mpi and Idh-2 (each with two alleles, f and s). To establish whether other fitness components also are related to genetic differences, we examined whether age at first breeding, fecundity, and adult survival of females were related to genotype at the same loci. Fertility in females shot outside the study area was also analyzed in relation to Mpi and Idh-2 genotype. The analyses controlled for phenotypic and environmental factors affecting female reproductive performance. At Mpi, f-carrying females in the study area bred earlier than ss individuals and tended to be more fecund. However, no association was found between Mpi genotype and adult survival. In culled females, Mpi f-carriers were more likely to be pregnant than ss females. At Idh-2, homozygous females in the study area started breeding earlier than heterozygous females. Idh-2 fs and ss females were more fecund than ff females though this relationship was complicated by an interaction with spring temperature in the year of birth. When the population was at high density, adult survival of Idh-2 ss females was better than survival of ff females, which was, in turn, better than survival of fs females. No association was found between Idh-2 genotype and fertility in culled females. Overall, the associations found in female reproductive measures favor those genotypes that survive particularly badly over the first two years of life. This result supports the idea that countervailing selection in different fitness components (antagonistic pleiotropy) is a common and powerful force maintaining polymorphism in natural populations. It may also explain how fitness components can have large heritabilities while overall fitness may have a low heritability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-103
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1991


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