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Evolution. 2003 Jul;57(7):1679-88.

Heritability of energetics in a wild mammal, the leaf-eared mouse (Phyllotis darwini).

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Instituto de Ecología y Evolución, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile.


As a first examination of the additive genetic variance of thermoregulatory traits in a natural population of endotherms, we studied the quantitative genetics of key physiological ecology traits in the leaf-eared mouse, Phyllotis darwini. We measured basal metabolic rate (BMR), nonshivering thermogenesis (NST), maximum metabolic rate for thermoregulation (MMR), thermal conductance (CT), body temperature (Tb), and factorial aerobic scope (FAS) in individuals acclimated to cold and warm conditions. For comparability with previous studies, we included the following morphological traits: foot length (FL), total length (TL), body mass (mb, at birth, sexual maturity, 6 months, and 8 months). Variance components were obtained from two different procedures: the expected variance component in an ANOVA Type III sum of squares and an animal model approach using restricted maximum likelihood. Results suggest the presence of additive genetic variance in FL (h2 = 0.47, P = 0.045), CT of cold-acclimated animals (h2 = 0.66, P = 0.041), and night body temperature, measured in cold-acclimated animals (h2 = 0.68, P = 0.080). Heritabilities of mb were near zero at all ages, but maternal effects and common environment effects were high and significant. We found no evidence of additive genetic variance in BMR, NST, MMR, or FAS (i.e., estimates were not significantly different from zero for all tests). Our results are in general agreement with previous studies of mammals that reported low heritability for: (1) BMR and MMR; (2) daytime body temperature; and (3) body mass for wild, but not laboratory or domestic, populations.

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