Genetic variance in fitness indicates rapid contemporary adaptive evolution in wild animals

Timothée Bonnet*, Michael B. Morrissey, Pierre de Villemereuil, Susan C. Alberts, Peter Arcese, Liam D. Bailey, Stan Boutin, Patricia Brekke, Lauren J.N. Brent, Glauco Camenisch, Anne Charmantier, Tim H. Clutton-Brock, Andrew Cockburn, David W. Coltman, Alexandre Courtiol, Eve Davidian, Simon R. Evans, John G. Ewen, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Christophe de FranceschiLars Gustafsson, Oliver P. Höner, Thomas M. Houslay, Lukas F. Keller, Marta Manser, Andrew G. McAdam, Emily McLean, Pirmin Nietlisbach, Helen L. Osmond, Josephine M. Pemberton, Erik Postma, Jane M. Reid, Alexis Rutschmann, Anna W. Santure, Ben C. Sheldon, Jon Slate, Céline Teplitsky, Marcel E. Visser, Bettina Wachter, Loeske E.B. Kruuk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


The rate of adaptive evolution, the contribution of selection to genetic changes that increase mean fitness, is determined by the additive genetic variance in individual relative fitness. To date, there are few robust estimates of this parameter for natural populations, and it is therefore unclear whether adaptive evolution can play a meaningful role in short-term population dynamics. We developed and applied quantitative genetic methods to long-term datasets from 19 wild bird and mammal populations and found that, while estimates vary between populations, additive genetic variance in relative fitness is often substantial and, on average, twice that of previous estimates. We show that these rates of contemporary adaptive evolution can affect population dynamics and hence that natural selection has the potential to partly mitigate effects of current environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1012-1016
Number of pages5
Issue number6596
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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