The genetic architecture of maternal effects across ontogeny in the red deer

Julie Gauzere, Josephine Pemberton, Sean Morris, Alison Morris, Loeske Kruuk, Craig Walling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Maternal effects, either environmental or genetic in origin, are an underappreciated source of phenotypic variance in natural populations. Maternal genetic effects have the potential to constrain or enhance the evolution of offspring traits depending on their magnitude and their genetic correlation with direct genetic effects. We estimated the maternal effect variance and its genetic component for twelve traits expressed over the life-history in a pedigreed population of wild red deer (morphology, survival/longevity, breeding success). We only found support for maternal genetic effect variance in the two neonatal morphological traits: birth weight (h2Mg = 0.31) and birth leg length (h2Mg = 0.17). For these two traits, the genetic correlation between maternal and direct additive effects was not significantly different from zero, indicating no constraint to evolution from genetic architecture. In contrast, variance in maternal genetic effects enhanced the additive genetic variance available to respond to natural selection. Maternal effect variance was negligible for late-life traits. We found no evidence for sex differences in either the director maternal genetic architecture of offspring traits. Our results suggest that maternal genetic effect variance declines over the lifetime, but also that this additional heritable genetic variation may facilitate evolutionary responses of early-life traits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1378-1391
Number of pages14
JournalEvolution: International Journal of Organic Evolution
Issue number7
Early online date27 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cervus elaphus
  • cross sex correlation
  • genetic constraint
  • life-history traits
  • maternal genetic effects
  • total heritability


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