Body size variation and fitness components in lesser snow geese Chen caerulescens caerulescens.
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We examined the potential action of selection on body size in a population of Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) breeding in the Canadian subarctic. We evaluated the genetic basis of phenotypic variation in body size and examined the association of body size and components of fitness related to fecundity and viability. There was a heritable component to body size in this population derived in part from the action of additive genes. There was no relation between adult body size and the number of eggs laid, the number of eggs surviving predation, the number of goslings that left the nest, or the number of goslings fledged. Small birds entered the breeding population at a younger age. They did so with no reduction in viability and may actually live longer than large birds. The heritable variation in body size combined with the directional selection gradient should lead to a gradual reduction in adult body size in this population. We found no evidence for such a change over 5 generations. We discuss this in terms of additional fitness components, the retarding effects of age structure on the response to selection, and the interaction of selection and gene flow. Received 6 October 1987, accepted 8 May 1988.