Shape variation is widespread in nature and embodies both a response to and a source for evolution and natural selection. To detect patterns of shape evolution, one must assess the quantitative genetic underpinnings of shape variation as well as the selective environment that the organisms have experienced. Here we used geometric morphometrics to assess variation in plastron shell shape in 1314 neonatal slider turtles (Trachemys scripta) from 162 clutches of laboratory-incubated eggs from two nesting areas. Multivariate analysis of variance indicated that nesting area has a limited role in describing plastron shape variation among clutches, whereas differences between individual clutches were highly significant, suggesting a prominent clutch effect. The covariation between plastron shape and several possible maternal effect variables (yolk hormone levels and egg dimensions) was assessed for a subset of clutches and found to be negligible. We subsequently employed several recently proposed methods for estimating heritability from shape variables, and generalized a univariate approach to accommodate unequal sample sizes. Univariate estimates of shape heritability based on Procrustes distances yielded large values for both nesting populations (h2 ≈ 0.86), and multivariate estimates of maximal additive heritability were also large for both nesting populations (hmax2 ≈ 0.57). We also estimated the dominant trend in heritable shape change for each nesting population and found that the direction of shape evolution was not the same for the two sites. Therefore, although the magnitude of shape evolution was similar between nesting populations, the manner in which plastron shape is evolving is not. We conclude that the univariate approach for assessing quantitative genetic parameters from geometric morphometric data has limited utility, because it is unable to accurately describe how shape is evolving.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3