How much energetic trade-offs limit selection? Insights from livestock and related laboratory model species.

TitleHow much energetic trade-offs limit selection? Insights from livestock and related laboratory model species.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsDouhard, F, Douhard, M, Gilbert, H, Monget, P, Gaillard, J-M, Lemaître, J-F
JournalEvol Appl
Date Published2021 Dec

Trade-offs between life history traits are expected to occur due to the limited amount of resources that organisms can obtain and share among biological functions, but are of least concern for selection responses in nutrient-rich or benign environments. In domestic animals, selection limits have not yet been reached despite strong selection for higher meat, milk or egg yields. Yet, negative genetic correlations between productivity traits and health or fertility traits have often been reported, supporting the view that trade-offs do occur in the context of nonlimiting resources. The importance of allocation mechanisms in limiting genetic changes can thus be questioned when animals are mostly constrained by their time to acquire and process energy rather than by feed availability. Selection for high productivity traits early in life should promote a fast metabolism with less energy allocated to self-maintenance (contributing to soma preservation and repair). Consequently, the capacity to breed shortly after an intensive period of production or to remain healthy should be compromised. We assessed those predictions in mammalian and avian livestock and related laboratory model species. First, we surveyed studies that compared energy allocation to maintenance between breeds or lines of contrasting productivity but found little support for the occurrence of an energy allocation trade-off. Second, selection experiments for lower feed intake per unit of product (i.e. higher feed efficiency) generally resulted in reduced allocation to maintenance, but this did not entail fitness costs in terms of survival or future reproduction. These findings indicate that the consequences of a particular selection in domestic animals are much more difficult to predict than one could anticipate from the energy allocation framework alone. Future developments to predict the contribution of time constraints and trade-offs to selection limits will be insightful to breed livestock in increasingly challenging environments.

Alternate JournalEvol Appl
PubMed ID34950226
PubMed Central IDPMC8674892