Skip to main content Accessibility help

Estimation of genetic variation in residual variance in female and male broiler chickens

  • H. A. Mulder (a1), W. G. Hill (a2), A. Vereijken (a3) and R. F. Veerkamp (a1)


In breeding programs, robustness of animals and uniformity of end product can be improved by exploiting genetic variation in residual variance. Residual variance can be defined as environmental variance after accounting for all identifiable effects. The aims of this study were to estimate genetic variance in residual variance of body weight, and to estimate genetic correlations between body weight itself and its residual variance and between female and male residual variance for broilers. The data sets comprised 26 972 female and 24 407 male body weight records. Variance components were estimated with ASREML. Estimates of the heritability of residual variance were in the range 0.029 (s.e. = 0.003) to 0.047 (s.e. = 0.004). The genetic coefficients of variation were high, between 0.35 and 0.57. Heritabilities were higher in females than in males. Accounting for heterogeneous residual variance increased the heritabilities for body weight as well. Genetic correlations between body weight and its residual variance were −0.41 (s.e. = 0.032) and −0.45 (s.e. = 0.040), respectively, in females and males. The genetic correlation between female and male residual variance was 0.11 (s.e. = 0.089), indicating that female and male residual variance are different traits. Results indicate good opportunities to simultaneously increase the mean and improve uniformity of body weight of broilers by selection.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Akaike, H 1973. Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Information Theory (ed. BN Petrov and F Csaki), pp. 267281. Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, Hungary.
Bolet, G, Garreau, H, Joly, T, Theau-Clement, M, Falieres, J, Hurtaud, J, Bodin, L 2007. Genetic homogenisation of birth weight in rabbits: indirect selection response for uterine horn characteristics. Livestock Science 111, 2832.
Cardin, S, Minvielle, F 1986. Selection on phenotypic variation of pupa weight in Tribolium castaneum. Canadian Journal of Genetics and Cytology 28, 856861.
Falconer, DS, Robertson, A 1956. Selection for environmental variability of body size in mice. Zeitschrift fur Inductive Abstammungs- und Vererbungslehre 87, 385391.
Garreau, H, Bolet, G, Larzul, C, Robert-Granie, C, Saleil, G, SanCristobal, M, Bodin, L 2008. Results of four generations of a canalizing selection for rabbit birth weight. Livestock Science 119, 5562.
Gilmour, AR, Gogel, BJ, Cullis, BR, Thompson, R 2006. ASREML User Guide Release 2.0. VSN International Ltd, Hemel Hempstead, UK.
Gutierrez, JP, Nieto, B, Piqueras, P, Ibanez, N, Salgado, C 2006. Genetic parameters for canalisation analysis of litter size and litter weight traits at birth in mice. Genetics Selection Evolution 38, 445462.
Hill, WG, Zhang, X-S 2004. Effects of phenotypic variability of directional selection arising through genetic differences in residual variability. Genetical Research, Cambridge 83, 121132.
Hohenboken, WD 1985. The manipulation of variation in quantitative traits: a review of possible genetic strategies. Journal of Animal Science 60, 101110.
Ibanez-Escriche, N, Moreno, A, Nieto, B, Piqueras, P, Salgado, C, Gutierrez, JP 2008a. Genetic parameters related to environmental variability of weight traits in a selection experiment for weight gain in mice; signs of correlated canalised response. Genetics Selection Evolution 40, 279293.
Ibanez-Escriche, N, Varona, L, Sorensen, D, Noguera, JL 2008b. A study of heterogeneity of environmental variance for slaughter weight in pigs. Animal 2, 1926.
Kaufman, PK, Enfield, FD, Comstock, RE 1977. Stabilizing selection for pupa weight in Tribolium castaneum. Genetics 87, 327341.
Larzul, C, Le Roy, P, Tribout, T, Gogue, J, SanCristobal, M 2006. Canalizing selection on ultimate pH in pigs: consequences on meat quality. In Proceedings of the 8th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Communication 13-09, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Lidauer, M, Stranden, I 1999. Fast and flexible program for genetic evaluation in dairy cattle. Interbull Bulletin 20, 2025.
Mackay, TFC, Lyman, RF 2005. Drosophila bristles and the nature of quantitative genetic variation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 360, 15131527.
Mulder, HA, Bijma, P, Hill, WG 2007. Prediction of breeding values and selection responses with genetic heterogeneity of environmental variance. Genetics 175, 18951910.
Mulder, HA, Bijma, P, Hill, WG 2008. Selection for uniformity in livestock by exploiting genetic heterogeneity of residual variance. Genetics Selection Evolution 40, 3759.
Odegard, J, Madsen, P, Gianola, D, Klemetsdal, G, Jensen, J, Heringstad, B, Korsgaard, IR 2005. A Bayesian threshold-normal mixture model for analysis of a continuous mastitis-related trait. Journal of Dairy Science 88, 26522659.
Rendel, JM, Sheldon, BL, Finlay, DE 1966. Selection for canalization of the scute phenotype. II. American Naturalist 100, 1331.
Ros, M, Sorensen, D, Waagepetersen, R, Dupont-Nivet, M, SanCristobal, M, Bonnett, JC, Mallard, J 2004. Evidence for genetic control of adult weight plasticity in the snail Helix aspersa. Genetics 168, 20892097.
Rowe, SJ, White, IMS, Avendano, S, Hill, WG 2006. Genetic heterogeneity of residual variance in broiler chickens. Genetics Selection Evolution 38, 617635.
SanCristobal-Gaudy, M, Bodin, L, Elsen, JM, Chevalet, C 2001. Genetic components of litter size variability in sheep. Genetics Selection Evolution 33, 249271.
SanCristobal-Gaudy, M, Elsen, JM, Bodin, L, Chevalet, C 1998. Prediction of the response to a selection for canalisation of a continuous trait in animal breeding. Genetics Selection Evolution 30, 423451.
Sorensen, D, Waagepetersen, R 2003. Normal linear models with genetically structured residual variance heterogeneity: a case study. Genetical Research, Cambridge 82, 207222.
Schwarz, G 1978. Estimating the dimension of a model. Annals of Statistics 6, 461464.
Wilks, SS 1938. The large-sample distribution of the likelihood ratio for testing composite hypotheses. Annals of Mathematical Statistics 9, 6062.
Wolc, A, White, IMS, Avendano, S, Hill, WG 2009. Genetic variability in residual variation of body weight and conformation scores in broiler chickens. Poultry Science 88, 11561161.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed