The danger of applying the breeder's equation in observational studies of natural populations

M. B. Morrissey, L. E. B. Kruuk, A. J. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The breeder's equation, which predicts evolutionary change when a phenotypic covariance exists between a heritable trait and fitness, has provided a key conceptual framework for studies of adaptive microevolution in nature. However, its application requires strong assumptions to be made about the causation of fitness variation. In its univariate form, the breeder's equation assumes that the trait of interest is not correlated with other traits having causal effects on fitness. In its multivariate form, the validity of predicted change rests on the assumption that all such correlated traits have been measured and incorporated into the analysis. Here, we (i) highlight why these assumptions are likely to be seriously violated in studies of natural, rather than artificial, selection and (ii) advocate wider use of the Robertson-Price identity as a more robust, and less assumption-laden, alternative to the breeder's equation for applications in evolutionary ecology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2277-2288
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • natural selection
  • quantitative genetics
  • response to selection


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