Heritable Environmental Variance Causes Nonlinear Relationships Between Traits: Application to Birth Weight and Stillbirth of Pigs

H.A. Mulder, W.G. Hill, E.F. Knol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There is recent evidence from laboratory experiments and analysis of livestock populations that not only the phenotype itself, but also its environmental variance, is under genetic control. Little is known about the relationships between the environmental variance of one trait and mean levels of other traits, however. A genetic covariance between these is expected to lead to nonlinearity between them, for example between birth weight and survival of piglets, where animals of extreme weights have lower survival. The objectives were to derive this nonlinear relationship analytically using multiple regression and apply it to data on piglet birth weight and survival. This study provides a framework to study such nonlinear relationships caused by genetic covariance of environmental variance of one trait and the mean of the other. It is shown that positions of phenotypic and genetic optima may differ and that genetic relationships are likely to be more curvilinear than phenotypic relationships, dependent mainly on the environmental correlation between these traits. Genetic correlations may change if the population means change relative to the optimal phenotypes. Data of piglet birth weight and survival show that the presence of nonlinearity can be partly explained by the genetic covariance between environmental variance of birth weight and survival. The framework developed can be used to assess effects of artificial and natural selection on means and variances of traits and the statistical method presented can be used to estimate trade-offs between environmental variance of one trait and mean levels of others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1255-1269
JournalGenetics
Volume199
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • generalized linear-models
  • phenotypic variability
  • genetic-heterogeneity
  • residual variance
  • natural-populations
  • breeding values
  • litter size
  • body-size
  • selection
  • uniformity

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