Linking genetic merit to behavioral data: Behavior and genetic effects on lamb growth in Soay sheep?

Charlotte Regan, Josephine Pemberton, Jill Pilkington, Per Terje Smiseth, Alastair Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Wild quantitative genetic studies have focused on a subset of traits (largely morphological and life-history), with others, such as behaviors, receiving much less attention. This is because it is challenging to obtain sufficient data, particularly for behaviors involving interactions between individuals. Here, we explore an indirect approach for pilot investigations of the role of geneticdifferences in generating variation in parental care. Variation in parental genetic effects for offspring performance is expected to arise from among-parent genetic variation in parental care. Therefore, we used the animal model to predict maternal breeding values for lamb growth and used thesepredictions to select females for eld observation, where maternal and lamb behaviors were recorded.Higher predicted maternal breeding value for lamb growth was associated with greater sucklingsuccess, but not with any other measures of suckling behavior. Though our work cannot explicitly estimate the genetic basis of the specic traits involved, it does provide a strategy for hypothesisgeneration and renement, that we hope could be used to justify data collection costs needed forconrmatory studies. Here results suggest that behavioral genetic variation is involved in generating maternal genetic eects on lamb growth in Soay sheep. Though important caveats and cautionsapply, our approach may extend the ability to initiate more genetic investigations of dicult-to study behaviours and social interactions in natural populations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • behavior
  • quantitative genetics
  • genomic prediction
  • breeding value
  • parental care
  • Soay sheep


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