Adaptability depends on the presence of additive genetic variance for important traits. Yet few estimates of additive genetic variance and heritability are available for wild populations, particularly so for fishes. Here, we estimate heritability of length-at-age for wild-living brown trout (Salmo trutta), based on long-term mark-recapture data and pedigree reconstruction based on large-scale genotyping at 15 microsatellite loci. We also tested for the presence of maternal and paternal effects using a Bayesian version of the Animal model. Heritability varied between 0.16 and 0.31, with reasonable narrow confidence bands, and the total phenotypic variance increased with age. When introducing dam as an additional random effect (accounting for c. 7% of total phenotypic variance), the level of additive genetic variance and heritability decreased (0.12-0.21). Parental size (both for sires and for dams) positively influenced length-at-age for juvenile trout--either through direct parental effects or through genotype-environment correlations. Length-at-age is a complex trait reflecting the effects of a number of physiological, behavioural and ecological processes. Our data show that fitness-related traits such as length-at-age can retain high levels of additive genetic variance even when total phenotypic variance is high.
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