Current Ornithology

Volume 16 of the series Current Ornithology pp 179-255

Avian Quantitative Genetics

  • Juha MeriläAffiliated withDepartment of Population Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University
  • , Ben C. SheldonAffiliated withEdward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

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Most of the characteristics studied by avian ecologists relate to the external appearance of birds¡ªmorphology, life history, behavior, and in some cases, physiology¡ªthe very characteristics upon which natural selection operates. These traits are likely to be the products of tens or hundreds of loci, and their expression can be modified by numerous environmental factors (Lynch and Walsh, 1998; Falconer and Mackay, 1996). The study of the emergent and evolutionary properties of this type of multifactorial inheritance is known as quantitative genetics, and it is based on indirect statistical inference rather than direct observation of specific loci and their gene products. The theory of quantitative genetics has been subject to considerable empirical scrutiny, and its successful application in plant and animal breeding testifies to its practical utility (Lynch and Walsh, 1998; Falconer and Mackay, 1996; Hill and Mackay, 1991; Mather and Jinks, 1982)