Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Describing natural selection on phenotypic traits under varying environmental conditions is essential for a quantitative assessment of the scale at which adaptation might occur and of the impact of environmental variability on evolution. Here we analyzed patterns of multivariate selection via fecundity and viability on three reproductive traits (laying date, clutch size, and egg weight) in a population of great tits (Parus major). We quantified selection under different environmental conditions using (1) local variation in breeding density and (2) distinct areas of the population's habitat. We found that selection gradients were generally stronger for fecundity than for viability selection. We also found correlational selection acting on the combination of laying date and clutch size; this is the first documented evidence of such selection acting on these two traits in a passerine bird. Our analyses showed that both local breeding density and habitat significantly influenced selection patterns, hence favoring different patterns of reproductive investment at a small-scale relative to typical dispersal distances in this species. Canonical rotation of the nonlinear selection matrices yielded similar conclusions as traditional nonlinear selection analyses, and also showed that the main axes of selection and fitness surfaces varied over space within the population. Our results emphasize the importance of quantifying different forms of selection, and of including variation in environmental conditions at small scales to gain a better understanding of potential evolutionary dynamics in wild populations. This study suggests that the fitness landscape for this species is relatively rugged at scales relevant to the life histories of individual birds and their close relatives.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1546 - 1559


Animals, Birds, Environment, Genetic Heterogeneity, Multivariate Analysis, Reproduction, Selection, Genetic