Pedigree-free quantitative genetic approach provides evidence for heritability of movement tactics in wild roe deer
Gervais, Laura et al. (2020), Pedigree-free quantitative genetic approach provides evidence for heritability of movement tactics in wild roe deer, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.dbrv15dxg
Assessing the evolutionary potential of animal populations in the wild is crucial to understanding how they may respond to selection mediated by rapid environmental change (e.g. habitat loss and fragmentation). A growing number of studies have investigated the adaptive role of behaviour, but assessments of its genetic basis in a natural setting remain scarce. We combined intensive biologging technology with genome-wide data and a pedigree-free quantitative genetic approach to quantify repeatability, heritability and evolvability for a suite of behaviours related to the risk avoidance-resource acquisition trade-off in a wild roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) population inhabiting a heterogeneous, human-dominated landscape. These traits, linked to the stress response, movement and space-use behaviour, were all moderately to highly repeatable. Furthermore, the repeatable among-individual component of variation in these traits was partly due to additive genetic variance, with heritability estimates ranging from 0.19±0.07 to 0.71±0.11 and evolvability ranging from 1.1 to 4.3%. Changes in the trait mean can therefore occur under hypothetical directional selection over just a few generations. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical demonstration of additive genetic variation in space-use behaviour in a free-ranging population based on genomic relatedness data. We conclude that wild animal populations may have the potential to adjust their spatial behaviour to human-driven environmental modifications through micro-evolutionary change.