Basal metabolic rate (BMR), commonly used as a measure of the cost of living, is highly variable among species, and sources of the variation are subject to an enduring debate among comparative biologists. One of the hypotheses links the variation in BMR with diversity of food habits and life-history traits. We test this hypothesis by asking how BMR of a particular species, the bank vole Myodes (= Clethrionomys) glareolus, would change under selection for high growth rate (measured as a postweaning body mass change; MDPW) and the ability to cope with a low-quality herbivorous diet (measured as body mass change during a four-day test; MDLQD). We show that both of the traits are heritable in the narrow sense (MDPW: h2 = 0.30; MDLQD: h2 = 0.19), and are genetically correlated with mass-independent BMR (additive genetic correlation, rA = 0.28 for MDPW and 0.37 for MDLQD). Thus, both of the traits could change in response to a selection, and the selection would also result in a correlated evolution of the level of metabolism. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that a part of the interspecific variation in BMR evolved in response to selection for life-history and ecological traits such as food habits.
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Vol. 63 • No. 6