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Ecological and evolutionary change is generated by variation in individual performance. Biologists have consequently long been interested in decomposing change measured at the population level into contributions from individuals, the traits they express and the alleles they carry. We present a novel method of estimating individual contributions to population growth and changes in distributions of quantitative traits and alleles. An individual's contribution to population growth is an individual's realized annual fitness. We demonstrate how the quantities we develop can be used to address a range of empirical questions, and provide an application to a detailed dataset of Soay sheep. The approach provides results that are consistent with those obtained using lifetime estimates of individual performance, yet is substantially more powerful as it allows lifetime performance to be decomposed into annual survival and fecundity contributions.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Biol Sci

Publication Date





547 - 555


Animal Population Groups, Animals, Female, Genetics, Population, Male, Models, Biological, Population Dynamics, Population Growth, Quantitative Trait, Heritable, Reproduction, Sheep