Putting life history theory to the test: The estimation of reproductive values from field data

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Quantifying fitness is important to understand adaptive evolution. Reproductive values are useful for making fitness comparisons involving different categories of individuals, like males and females. By definition, the reproductive value of a category is the expected per capita contribution of the members of that category to the gene pool of future generations. Life history theory reveals how reproductive values can be determined from life-history parameters, but this requires matrix algebra. Recently, a more intuitive, pedigree-based method has become popular. It estimates genetic contributions of individuals to future generations by tracking their descendants down through the pedigree. We compare both methods. We implement various life-history scenarios (for which the “true” reproductive values can be calculated) in individual-based simulations, use this data to estimate reproductive values with both methods, and compare the results with the true reproductive values. We show that the pedigree-based estimation of reproductive values is either systematically biased (and hence inaccurate), or very imprecise. This holds even for simple life histories and under idealized conditions (such as complete knowledge of the pedigree). The traditional algebraic method estimates reproductive values with accuracy, and the precision of estimates can be determined by sensitivity analyses. However, these estimates can be biased as well when they are based on inadequate life-history models.
Event titleInternational Society for Behavioral Ecology Congress 2022
Event typeConference
Conference number18
LocationStockholm, SwedenShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational