The evolutionary ecology of variation in labile traits: selection on its among- and within-individual components

Yimen G. Araya-Ajoy, Niels J. Dingemanse, David F. Westneat, Jonathan Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Closer integration between behavioral ecology and quantitative genetics has resulted in a recent increase in studies partitioning sources of variation in labile traits. Repeatable between-individual differences are commonly documented, and their existence is generally explained using adaptive arguments, implying that selection has shaped variation at the among- and within-individual level. However, predicting the expected pattern of non-adaptive phenotypic variation around an optimal phenotypic value is difficult, hampering our ability to provide quantitative assessments of the adaptive nature of observed patterns of phenotypic variation within a population. We argue that estimating the strength of selection on trait variation among and within individuals provides a way to test adaptive theory concerned with phenotypic variation. To achieve this aim, we describe a nonlinear selection analysis that enables the study of the selective pressures on trait means and their among- and within-individual variation. By describing an integrative approach for studying the strength of selection on phenotypic variation at different levels, we hope to stimulate empirical studies investigating the ecological factors that can shape the repeatability, heritability, and coefficients of variation of labile and other repeatedly expressed traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2246-2256
Number of pages11
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • animal personality
  • phenotypic variance
  • quantitative genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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