Despite their importance in evolutionary biology, heritability and the strength of natural selection have rarely been estimated in wild populations of iteroparous species or have usually been limited to one particular event during an organism's lifetime. Using an animal-model restricted maximum likelihood and phenotypic selection models, we estimated quantitative genetic parameters and the strength of lifetime selection on parturition date and litter size at birth in a natural population of North American red squirrels, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus. Litter size at birth and parturition date had low heritabilities (h2 = 0.15 and 0.16, respectively). We considered potential effects of temporal environmental covariances between phenotypes and fitness and of spatial environmental heterogeneity in estimates of selection. Selection favored early breeders and females that produced litter sizes close to the population average. Stabilizing selection on litter size at birth may occur because of a trade-off between number of offspring produced per litter and offspring survival or a trade-off between a female's fecundity and her future reproductive success and survival.
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Vol. 57 • No. 10