A positive genetic correlation between basal metabolic rate (BMR) and maximal (VO2max) rate of oxygen consumption is a key assumption of the aerobic capacity model for the evolution of endothermy. We estimated the genetic (VA, additive, and VD, dominance), prenatal (VN), and postnatal common environmental (VC) contributions to individual differences in metabolic rates and body mass for a genetically heterogeneous laboratory strain of house mice (Mus domesticus). Our breeding design did not allow the simultaneous estimation of VD and VN. Regardless of whether VD or VN was assumed, estimates of VA were negative under the full models. Hence, we fitted reduced models (e.g., VA + VN + VE or VA + VE) and obtained new variance estimates. For reduced models, narrow-sense heritability (h2N) for BMR was < 0.1, but estimates of h2N for VO2max were higher. When estimated with the VA + VE model, the additive genetic covariance between VO2max and BMR was positive and statistically different from zero. This result offers tentative support for the aerobic capacity model for the evolution of vertebrate energetics. However, constraints imposed on the genetic model may cause our estimates of additive variance and covariance to be biased, so our results should be interpreted with caution and tested via selection experiments.
Copyright 2001 the Genetics Society of America.