Anthropoid phylogeny has been characterized by dramatic increases in relative brain size. Given the importance of genetic mechanisms in evolution, quantitative genetic analyses of the biological concomitants of relative brain size variation should greatly augment our understanding of this phylogenetic phenomenon. In humans the brain is often linked metabolically with three other organs—heart, kidneys, and liver— that together account for most of the total basal metabolic rate. Because the weights of these four organs are proportional to their individual organ metabolic rates, their summed weights have been used by previous researchers as a proxy measure for their composite organ metabolic rate. We have conducted a quantitative genetic analysis of variation in the relative weights of these four organs in a population of captive baboons from the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. These analyses were performed on loge-transformed organ weights available for 601 animals, 307 of which were assigned to 25 pedigrees containing 2 to 49 members; the remaining 294 animals were treated as independent individuals. Moderate but statistically significant (p < 0.005) heritabilities were estimated for all four organ weights: h2brain = 0.409 ± 0.147, h2heart = 0.386 ± 0.184, h2kidneys = 0.468 ± 0.152, and h2liver = 0.600 ± 0.160. Significant (p < 0.05) additive genetic correlations were estimated between brain and liver weights (PG=0.568) and between liver and kidney weights (PG = 0.858). Significant (p < 0.05) environmental correlations were identified for heart and kidney weights (PE = 0.551) and for liver and kidney weights (PG — 0.684). Our results clearly demonstrate that the four organ weights have substantial heritable components that, because of their similar magnitudes, are probably equally susceptible to selection. However, the patterns of intercorrelation revealed by our analyses of the genetic and environmental correlation matrices indicate that, of the four organs composing the proxy measure of organ metabolic rate, only the liver and the kidneys are likely to exhibit correlated responses to selection for increased relative brain size such as that observed in the anthropoid fossil record.
Mahaney, Michael C.; Williams-Blangero, S; Blangero, John; and Leland, M Michelle
"Quantitative Genetics of Relative Organ Weight Variation in Captive Baboons,"
6, Article 8.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol65/iss6/8