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Despite the tremendous progress led by quantitative genetics in agriculture, its longstanding weakness is that it does not formally acknowledge that social environment could be under genetic control since it includes the expression of the genes of conspecifics each individual interacts with. Direct genetic effects (DGEs) of multiple traits, characterizing the genetic basis of a population under selective breeding, and indirect genetic effects (IGEs) are two sources of additive genetic variance that jointly define the response to selection. Their coupling is thus necessary to accurately predict response to selection and to account for the social realm of populations. Among the multiple expected benefits of accounting for the social effect by integrating IGEs, I am focusing on: i) the enhancement of genetic progress thanks to more precise estimation of genetic merit and indexes of selection, and ii) the selection of individuals on the basis of their genetic effects on the mean phenotype of their group to limit animal welfare. Despite the societal and economic returns promised by IGEs, however, few is known on what they can afford in the long term for the genetic progress of a multivariate phenotype or on the efficiency of IGEs in constraining environments. Using individual-centered stochastic simulations in a quantitative genetic framework, I am investigating the ability of sociallybased breeding schemes to take up industrial and societal challenges: i) to accelerate genetic progress on the long term and ii) to estimate expected genetic trends on animal welfare; while accounting for the (co)-variation between multiple growth-related traits, food availability and the size of the group, three biological and agricultural constraints.
My research targets the dynamics of evolutionary processes in both natural and artificial conditions. During my PhD in Canada, I sought to unravel how demography, endocrinology, and ethology influenced sexual selection acting on the morphology of wild bighorn sheep (Ovis Canadensis) over two decades. This research on phenotypic selection focused on gathered data in the wild. I promoted the results in the perspective of wild fauna conservation and sustainable exploitation. In order to develop my expertise in genetic selection, I then created and managed a research and development postdoctoral project on livestock production. This project was at the interface between academic and private research, characterized by a strong industrial anchoring in Canada swine production. In addition to building-up and coordinating a high-throughput phenotyping project, I worked on the genetic effects of social competition on group-housed animals, with the aim of promoting ever more ethical animal husbandry. In line with these projects, I am currently working at INRA as AgreenSkills fellow, on the evolutionary dynamics of the genetic (co)variance of social effects and traditional production characters like body growth when social selection is carried out under various rearing conditions.
Alexandre M. Martin, Marco Festa-Bianchet, David W. Coltman, Fanie Pelletier, 2016. Demographic drivers of age-dependent fluctuating sexual selection. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 29, 1437-1446.
Alexandre M. Martin, Marco Festa-Bianchet, David W. Coltman, Fanie Pelletier, 2014. Sexually antagonistic association between paternal phenotype and offspring viability reinforces total selection on a sexually selected trait. Biology Letters 10: 20140043. Doi: 10.1098/ rsbl.2014.0043.
Alexandre M. Martin, Marco Festa-Bianchet, David W. Coltman, Fanie Pelletier, 2014. Comparing measures of breeding inequality and opportunity for selection with sexual selection on a quantitative character in bighorn rams. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28, 223-230.
Dominique Marcil Ferland, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Alexandre M. Martin, Fanie Pelletier, 2013. Despite catch-up, prolonged growth has detrimental fitness consequences for bighorn ewes. The American Naturalist 182 (6), 775-785.