Evidence for Selection-by-Environment but Not Genotype-by-Environment Interactions for Fitness-Related Traits in a Wild Mammal Population
Genetics Society of America
Copyright © 2017, Genetics
Reason for embargo
Under indefinite embargo due to publisher policy.
How do environmental conditions influence selection and genetic variation in wild populations? There is widespread evidence for selection-by-environment interactions (S*E), but we reviewed studies of natural populations estimating the extent of genotype-by-environment interactions (G*E) in response to natural variation in environmental conditions, and found that evidence for G*E appears to be rare within single populations in the wild. Studies estimating the simultaneous impact of environmental variation on both selection and genetic variation are especially scarce. Here, we used 24 years of data collected from a wild Soay sheep population to quantify how an important environmental variable, population density, impacts upon (1) selection through annual contribution to fitness and (2) expression of genetic variation, in six morphological and life-history traits: body weight; hind leg length; parasite burden; horn length; horn growth; and testicular circumference. Our results supported the existence of S*E: selection was stronger in years of higher population density in all traits apart from horn growth, with directional selection being stronger under more adverse conditions. Quantitative genetic models revealed significant additive genetic variance for body weight, leg length, parasite burden, horn length and testes size, but not for horn growth or our measure of annual fitness. However, random regression models found variation between individuals in their responses to the environment in only three traits, and did not support the presence of G*E for any trait. Our analyses of St Kilda Soay sheep data thus concurs with our cross-study review that, while natural environmental variation within a population can profoundly alter the strength of selection on phenotypic traits, there is less evidence for its effect on the expression of genetic variance in the wild.
The long term project on St Kilda, including field assistant JGP, has been largely funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council while the SNP genotyping was supported by the European Research Council. ADH is funded by a University of Stirling Impact Research Fellowship. LK has been funded by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Genetics Society of America via the DOI in this record.
Published online 10 November 2017