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Genetics. 1979 Apr;91(4):743-53.

Quantitative Genetic Analysis of Temperature Regulation in MUS MUSCULUS. I. Partitioning of Variance.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut 06457.


Heritabilities (from parent-offspring regression) and intraclass correlations of full sibs for a variety of traits were estimated from 225 litters of a heterogeneous stock (HS/Ibg) of laboratory mice. Initial variance partitioning suggested different adaptive functions for physiological, morphological and behavioral adjustments with respect to their thermoregulatory significance. Metabolic heat-production mechanisms appear to have reached their genetic limits, with little additive genetic variance remaining. This study provided no genetic evidence that body size has a close directional association with fitness in cold environments, since heritability estimates for weight gain and adult weight were similar and high, whether or not the animals were exposed to cold. Behavioral heat conservation mechanisms also displayed considerable amounts of genetic variability. However, due to strong evidence from numerous other studies that behavior serves an important adaptive role for temperature regulation in small mammals, we suggest that fluctuating selection pressures may have acted to maintain heritable variation in these traits.

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