Genotype by environment interactions in winter survival in red deer

T N Coulson, S D Albon, J M Pemberton, J Slate, F E Guinness, T H Clutton-Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

1. The extent to which environmental heterogeneity interacts with genetic heterogeneity to affect individual fitness within populations has the potential to affect the dynamics of natural populations and the amount of genetic variation maintained in natural populations, yet is a relatively poorly investigated topic in either ecology or evolutionary biology.

2. Many individual-based studies are precluded from such investigations by the practical problems of measuring heritability of traits affecting fitness and the difficulties of experimental manipulation of the study population. One way of demonstrating how commonly genotype by environmental interactions affect fitness, though not their overall importance in determining fitness, is to investigate fitness in a population subdivided by genotype at one or more marker loci.

3. We analyse data on calf winter survival from a population of red deer from the Isle of Rum, Scotland. Data on individual survival, environmental fluctuations and genotype at 13 loci were collected from 1982 to 1994.

4. We found associations between survival over the first winter of life and calf genotype at two out of three allozyme loci and five out of 10 microsatellite loci. All of the results remained significant under randomization tests. Other genotypes that initially appeared to have an association with survival were rejected when bootstrapped, usually due to insufficient data or anomalies in the data.

5. Our results suggest that associations between fitness and genotype are common. Five out of the seven associations found involved interactions with environmental variables. Four of these showed density-dependent selection with different genotypes showing high survival at high population size compared to low population size and one interacted with autumn rainfall. In a sixth case, genotype interacted with sex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-445
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Volume67
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1998

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