Competitive Ability in Male House Mice (Mus musculus): Genetic Influences
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Conspecifics of many animal species physically compete to gain reproductive resources and thus fitness. Despite the importance of competitive ability across the animal kingdom, specific traits that influence or underpin competitive ability are poorly characterized. Here, we investigate whether there are genetic influences on competitive ability within male house mice. Additionally, we examined if litter demographics (litter size and litter sex ratio) influence competitive ability. We phenotyped two generations for a male’s ability to possess a reproductive resource––a prime nesting site––using semi-natural enclosures with mixed sex groupings. We used the “Animal Model” coupled with an extensive pedigree to estimate several genetic parameters. Competitive ability was found to be highly heritable, but only displayed a moderate genetic correlation to body mass. Interestingly, litter sex ratio had a weak negative influence on competitive ability. Litter size had no significant influence on competitive ability. Our study also highlights how much remains unknown about the proximal causes of competitive ability.
KeywordsHeritability Genetic correlation Life-history evolution Male–male competition Sexual selection
We would like to thank Fred Adler, Elizabeth Cashdan, Terry Dial, Gordon Lark, Allen Moore, Nadja Schilling, and Jon Seger for insightful discussions. We would also like to thank Terry Dial and Daryl McLaren who helped with data collection and Linda Morrison who maintained the mouse population’s pedigree. This work was primarily funded through the University of Utah Funding Incentive Seed Grant Program to DR Carrier. Additional funding was provided through NSF grants to DR Carrier (IOS 08-17782) and WK Potts (DEB 09-18969) and an NIH grant to WK Potts (RO1-GM039578). CB Cunningham and JS Ruff were supported by NSF GK-12 Educational Outreach Fellowships (DGE 08-41233).
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