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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/346

Title: The best in all possible worlds? A quantitative genetic study of geographic variation in the meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus
Authors: Hansen, Thomas F.
Boonstra, Rudy
Issue Date: 2000
Publisher: OIKOS
Citation: OIKOS 89: 81–94. Copenhagen 2000
Abstract: The meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus, is the most widely distributed Microtus species in North America. Across its range, it shows marked demographic differences, experiences a large range of climatic conditions, and varies considerably in body size and life-history characteristics. To study the genetic basis of the geographic variation in size and life history of this species, we subjected three populations, one from central Canada and two from eastern Canada, to quantitative genetic analysis in the lab. We studied the variance and covariance of several size and growth variables as well as age and size at maturity by means of population crosses, full-sib analysis, and parent-offspring regressions. We found that the phenotypic differences among these populations are almost entirely due to environmental effects. However, within populations, additive genetic and maternal effects explain most of the variation. We discuss possible explanations for the lack of genetic differences among the populations and speculate that a similar reaction norm is maintained in all populations through heterogeneity in the temporal or spatial environment that the populations experience. The heterogeneity may be mediated through population density fluctuations, climatic variation, or variation in site productivity. Thus, we hypothesize that M. pennsylvanicus has evolved to be the best in all possible worlds rather than in one actual world. This study highlights the crucial importance of maternal and environmental effects on the size, growth, and life history of small rodents.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/346
ISSN: 0030-1299
Appears in Collections:Biology

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