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Evolution. 2005 Jun;59(6):1362-71.

Natural selection and genetic variation for reproductive reaction norms in a wild bird population.

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Bird Ecology Unit, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 65, Viikinkaari 1, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.


Many morphological and life-history traits show phenotypic plasticity that can be described by reaction norms, but few studies have attempted individual-level analyses of reaction norms in the wild. We analyzed variation in individual reaction norms between laying date and three climatic variables (local temperature, local rainfall, and North Atlantic Oscillation) of 1126 female collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) with a restricted maximum likehood linear mixed model approach using random-effect best linear unbiased predictor estimates for the elevation (i.e., expected laying date in the average environment) and slope (i.e., adjustment in laying date as a function of environment) of females' reaction norms. Variation in laying date was best explained by local temperature, and individual females differed in both the elevation and the slope of their laying date-temperature reaction norms. As revealed by animal model analyses, there was weak evidence for additive genetic variance of elevation (h2 +/- SE = 0.09 +/- 0.09), whereas there was no evidence for heritability of slope (h2 +/- SE = 0.00 +/- 0.01). Selection analysis, using a female's lifetime production of fledglings or recruits as an estimate of her fitness, revealed significant selection for a lower phenotypic value and breeding value for elevation (i.e., earlier laying date at the average temperature). There was selection for steeper phenotypic values of slope (i.e., greater plasticity in the adjustment of laying date to temperature), but no significant selection on the breeding values of slope. Although these results suggest that phenotypic laying date is influenced by additive genetic factors, as well as by an interaction with the environment, selection on plasticity would not produce an evolutionary response.

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