Estimating heritabilities and genetic correlations: comparing the 'animal model' with parent-offspring regression using data from a natural population.

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Abstract

Quantitative genetic parameters are nowadays more frequently estimated with restricted maximum likelihood using the 'animal model' than with traditional methods such as parent-offspring regressions. These methods have however rarely been evaluated using equivalent data sets. We compare heritabilities and genetic correlations from animal model and parent-offspring analyses, respectively, using data on eight morphological traits in the great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus). Animal models were run using either mean trait values or individual repeated measurements to be able to separate between effects of including more extended pedigree information and effects of replicated sampling from the same individuals. We show that the inclusion of more pedigree information by the use of mean traits animal models had limited effect on the standard error and magnitude of heritabilities. In contrast, the use of repeated measures animal model generally had a positive effect on the sampling accuracy and resulted in lower heritabilities; the latter due to lower additive variance and higher phenotypic variance. For most trait combinations, both animal model methods gave genetic correlations that were lower than the parent-offspring estimates, whereas the standard errors were lower only for the mean traits animal model. We conclude that differences in heritabilities between the animal model and parent-offspring regressions were mostly due to the inclusion of individual replicates to the animal model rather than the inclusion of more extended pedigree information. Genetic correlations were, on the other hand, primarily affected by the inclusion of more pedigree information. This study is to our knowledge the most comprehensive empirical evaluation of the performance of the animal model in relation to parent-offspring regressions in a wild population. Our conclusions should be valuable for reconciliation of data obtained in earlier studies as well as for future meta-analyses utilizing estimates from both traditional methods and the animal model.

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  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1739
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume3
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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