Quantitative genetics and fitness: lessons from Drosophila

Heredity (Edinb). 1987 Feb;58 ( Pt 1):103-18. doi: 10.1038/hdy.1987.15.


This paper examines patterns of heritability and genetic covariance between traits in the genus Drosophila. Traits are divided into the categories, morphology, behaviour, physiology and life history. Early theoretical analyses suggested that life history traits should have heritabilities that are lower than those in other categories. Variable pleiotrophy, environmental variation, mutation and niche variation may, however, maintain high heritabilities. In Drosophila the heritabilities of life history traits are lower than morphological or physiological traits but may exceed 20 per cent. The pattern of variation in the heritability of behavioural traits is similar to that of life history traits. Genetic covariance between morphological traits and between morphological and life history traits are all positive but those between life history traits have variable sign. Negative covariance between traits supports the variable pleiotropy hypothesis but other factors such as environmental heterogeneity, or mutation cannot be excluded.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila / physiology
  • Environment
  • Genetic Variation
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype