Genetic correlation between resting metabolic rate and exploratory behaviour in deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus)

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According to the ‘pace-of-life’ syndrome hypothesis, differences in resting metabolic rate (RMR) should be genetically associated with exploratory behaviour. A large number of studies reported significant heritability for both RMR and exploratory behaviour, but the genetic correlation between the two has yet to be documented. We used a quantitative genetic approach to decompose the phenotypic (co)variance of several metabolic and behavioural measures into components of additive genetic, common environment and permanent environment variance in captive deer mice. We found significant additive genetic variance for two mass-independent metabolic measures (RMR and the average metabolic rate throughout the respirometry run) and two behavioural measures (time spent in centre and distance moved in a novel environment). We also detected positive additive genetic correlation between mass-independent RMR and distance moved (rA = 0.78 ± 0.23). Our results suggest that RMR and exploratory behaviour are functionally integrated traits in deer mice, providing empirical support for one of the connections within the pace-of-life syndrome hypothesis.

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