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Performance trade-offs in wild mice

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Abstract

Various aspects of performance (e.g., speed, strength, endurance) are thought to be important determinants of the success of animals in natural activities such as foraging, mating, and escaping from predators. However, it is generally known that morphological properties enhancing one type of performance (e.g., strength) can lead to a reduction in another (e.g., speed). Such performance trade-offs have been quantified at the inter-specific level, but evidence at the individual level remains equivocal. To test for the presence of a performance trade-off, we repeatedly captured a total of 189 wild white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) and measured their grip strength and sprint speed. Using the maximum performance score obtained for each individual across all their repeated tests, we obtained a counter-intuitive (and biased) positive and highly significant phenotypic correlation. Using a bivariate mixed model, we detected a significant negative among-individual correlation between grip strength and sprint speed. By contrast, the within-individual correlation was positive but non-significant, thus illustrating the importance of properly partitioning the correlations at the among- and within-individual levels when testing for the presence of a performance trade-off. This study is one of the first to detect a performance trade-off at the among-individual level in a wild animal population. Such a trade-off may be caused by individual differences in muscle physiology and scapular morphology resulting from genetic differences and/or plastic responses to differential use of the arboreal vs. terrestrial parts of the environment.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all field assistants who helped collect the data (S. Newar, H. Panique, and J. Veitch). We also thank two reviewers for their insightful comments.

Funding

This research was supported by funds from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) (Grant no. 2016-04418) and Canada Research Chair programs.

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Contributions

VC conceived the ideas and designed methods; IB collected the data; IB and VC analysed the data; IB led the writing of the manuscript with help from VC.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Vincent Careau.

Additional information

Communicated by Jean-François Le Galliard.

This article deserves to be honoured as a Highlighted Student Paper because it clearly shows how studying trade-offs requires the partitioning of trait (co)variances. We know performance trade-offs exist, yet they are rarely detected. This article shows why performance trade-offs have been rarely detected in past studies, mainly due to the use of “personal best” values and a focus on controlling for individual “quality” instead of properly partition trait (co)variances at the among- vs within-individual levels.

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Berberi, I., Careau, V. Performance trade-offs in wild mice. Oecologia 191, 11–23 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-019-04450-9

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