TitleEvolution and stability of the G-matrix on a landscape with a moving optimum
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsJones, AG, Arnold, SJ, Bürger, R
Keywordsadaptive landscape genetic correlation genetic covariance genetic variance net selection gradient pleiotropy response to selection quantitative genetics quantitative-genetic-analysis mutation-selection balance drosophila-melanogaster phenotypic evolution

In quantitative genetics, the genetic architecture of traits, described in terms of variances and covariances, plays a major role in determining the trajectory of evolutionary change. Hence, the genetic variance-covariance matrix (G-matrix) is a critical component of modern quantitative genetics theory. Considerable debate has surrounded the issue of G-matrix constancy because unstable G-matrices provide major difficulties for evolutionary inference. Empirical studies and analytical theory have not resolved the debate. Here we present the results of stochastic models of G-matrix evolution in a population responding to an adaptive landscape with an optimum that moves at a constant rate. This study builds on the previous results of stochastic simulations of G-matrix stability under stabilizing selection arising from a stationary optimum. The addition of a moving optimum leads to several important new insights. First, evolution along genetic lines of least resistance increases stability of the orientation of the G-matrix relative to stabilizing selection alone. Evolution across genetic lines of least resistance decreases G-matrix stability. Second, evolution in response to a continuously changing optimum can produce persistent maladaptation for a correlated trait, even if its optimum does not change. Third, the retrospective analysis of selection performs very well when the mean G-matrix (G) is known with certainty, indicating that covariance between G and the directional selection gradient beta is usually small enough in magnitude that it introduces only a small bias in estimates of the net selection gradient. Our results also show, however, that the contemporary (G) over bar -matrix only serves as a rough guide to (G) over bar. The most promising approach for the estimation of (G) over bar is probably through comparative phylogenetic analysis. Overall, our results show that directional selection actually can increase stability of the G-matrix and that retrospective analysis of selection is inherently feasible. One major remaining challenge is to gain a sufficient understanding of the G-matrix to allow the confident estimation of (G) over bar.