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Genetics. 2008 Sep;180(1):507-16. doi: 10.1534/genetics.108.089896. Epub 2008 Aug 30.

Survival of the currently fittest: genetics of rainbow trout survival across time and space.

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MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Biotechnology and Food Research, Biometrical Genetics, Jokioinen, Finland.


As a fitness trait, survival is assumed to exhibit low heritability due to strong selection eroding genetic variation and/or spatio-temporal variation in mortality agents reducing genetic and increasing residual variation. The latter phenomenon in particular may contribute to low heritability in multigeneration data, even if certain cohorts exhibit significant genetic variation. Analysis of survival data from 10 year classes of rainbow trout reared at three test stations showed that treating survival as a single trait across all generations resulted in low heritability (h2 = 0.08-0.17). However, when heritabilities were estimated from homogeneous generation and test station-specific cohorts, a wide range of heritability values was revealed (h2 = 0.04-0.71). Of 64 genetic correlations between different cohorts, 20 were positive, but 16 were significantly negative, confirming that genetic architecture of survival is not stable across generations and environments. These results reveal the existence of hidden genetic variation for survival and demonstrate that treating survival as one trait over several generations may not reveal its true genetic architecture. Negative genetic correlations between cohorts indicate that overall survival has limited potential to predict general resistance, and care should be taken when using it as selection criterion.

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