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Perfect genetic correlation between number of offspring and grandoffspring in an industrialized human population.

Authors
  • Zietsch, Brendan P
  • Kuja-Halkola, Ralf
  • Walum, Hasse
  • Verweij, Karin J H
Type
Published Article
Journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publisher
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Jan 21, 2014
Volume
111
Issue
3
Pages
1032–1036
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1310058111
PMID: 24395780
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Reproductive success is widely used as a measure of fitness. However, offspring quantity may not reflect the genetic contribution to subsequent generations if there is nonrandom variation in offspring quality. Offspring quality is likely to be an important component of human fitness, and tradeoffs between offspring quantity and quality have been reported. As such, studies using offspring quantity as a proxy for fitness may yield erroneous projections of evolutionary change, for example if there is little or no genetic variance in number of grandoffspring or if its genetic variance is to some extent independent of the genetic variance in number of offspring. To address this, we performed a quantitative genetic analysis on the reproductive history of 16,268 Swedish twins born between 1915 and 1929 and their offspring. There was significant sex limitation in the sources of familial variation, but the magnitudes of the genetic and environmental effects were the same in males and females. We found significant genetic variation in number of offspring and grandoffspring (heritability = 24% and 16%, respectively), and genetic variation in the two variables completely overlapped--i.e., there was a perfect genetic correlation between number of offspring and grandoffspring. Shared environment played a smaller but significant role in number of offspring and grandoffspring; again, there was a perfect shared environmental correlation between the two variables. These findings support the use of lifetime reproductive success as a proxy for fitness in populations like the one used here, but we caution against generalizing this conclusion to other kinds of human societies.

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