Reproductive and early life-history traits can be considered aspects of either offspring or maternal phenotype, and their evolution will therefore depend on selection operating through offspring and maternal components of fitness. Furthermore, selection at these levels may be antagonistic, with optimal offspring and maternal fitness occurring at different phenotypic values. We examined selection regimes on the correlated traits of birth weight, birth date, and litter size in Soay sheep (Ovis aries) using data from a long-term study of a free-living population on the archipelago of St. Kilda, Scotland. We tested the hypothesis that selective constraints on the evolution of the multivariate phenotype arise through antagonistic selection, either acting at offspring and maternal levels, or on correlated aspects of phenotype. All three traits were found to be under selection through variance in short-term and lifetime measures of fitness. Analysis of lifetime fitness revealed strong positive directional selection on birth weight and weaker selection for increased birth date at both levels. However, there was also evidence for stabilizing selection on these traits at the maternal level, with reduced fitness at high phenotypic values indicating lower phenotypic optima for mothers than for offspring. Additionally, antagonistic selection was found on litter size. From the offspring's point of view it is better to be born a singleton, whereas maternal fitness increases with average litter size. The decreased fitness of twins is caused by their reduced birth weight; therefore, this antagonistic selection likely results from trade-offs between litter size and birth weight that have different optimal resolutions with respect to offspring and maternal fitness. Our results highlight how selection regimes may vary depending on the assignment of reproductive and early life-history traits to either offspring or maternal phenotype.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2