MEASURING SELECTION AND CONSTRAINT IN THE EVOLUTION OF GROWTH

Evolution; International Journal of Organic Evolution
M Kirkpatrick, David Lofsvold

Abstract

We present a quantitative genetic model for the evolution of growth trajectories that makes no assumptions about the shapes of growth trajectories that are possible. Evolution of a population's mean growth trajectory is governed by the selection gradient function and the additive genetic covariance function. The selection gradient function is determined by the impact of changes in size on the birth and death rates at different ages, and can be estimated for natural populations. The additive genetic covariance function can also be estimated empirically, as we demonstrate with four vertebrate populations. Using the genetic data from mice, a computer simulation shows that evolution of a growth trajectory can be constrained by the absence of genetic variation for certain changes in the trajectory's shape. These constraints can be visualized with an analysis of the covariance function. Results from four vertebrate populations show that while each has substantial genetic variation for some evolutionary changes in its growth trajectory, most types of changes have little or no variation available. This suggests that constraints may often play an important role in the evolution of growth.

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