Understanding how selection operates on a set of phenotypic traits is central to evolutionary biology. Often, it requires estimating survival (or other fitness-related life-history traits) which can be difficult to obtain for natural populations because individuals cannot be exhaustively followed. To cope with this issue of imperfect detection, we advocate the use of mark-recapture data and we provide a general framework for both the estimation of linear and nonlinear selection gradients and the visualization of fitness surfaces. To quantify the strength of selection, the standard second-order polynomial regression method is integrated in mark-recapture models. To visualize the form of selection, we use splines to display selection acting on multivariate phenotypes in the most flexible way. We employ Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling in a Bayesian framework to estimate model parameters, assessing traits relevance and calculating the optimal amount of smoothing. We illustrate our approach using data from a wild population of Common blackbirds (Turdus merula) to investigate survival in relation to morphological traits, and provide evidence for correlational selection using the new methodology. Overall, the framework we propose will help in exploring the full potential of mark-recapture data to study natural selection.
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Vol. 63 • No. 12