Selection Response in a Divergent Selection Experiment for Birth Weight Variability in Mice Compared with a Control Line

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Birth weight (BW) in animal production is an economically important trait in prolific species. The laboratory mouse (Mus musculus) is used as an experimental animal because it is considered a suitable model for prolific species such as rabbits and pigs. Two mouse lines were divergently selected for birth weight variability with a third line of non-selected control population of the same origin as the animals starting the experiment. The objective of this study was, therefore, to compare and evaluate the differential response of each line. The animals were from the 17th generation of both low and high BW variability lines of the divergent selection experiment, including in addition animals from the control line. The dataset contained 389 records from 48 litters of the high line, 734 records from 73 litters of the low line, and 574 records from 71 litters of the control line. The studied traits were as follows: the BW, the BW variance, the BW standard deviation, the BW coefficient of variation within-litter, the weaning weight (WW), the litter size at birth and at weaning, the weight gain, and the preweaning survival. The model included the line effect jointly with the parturition number and its interaction, the linear and quadratic LS as covariates except for the LS trait itself when analyzing litter traits, as well as the pup sex when analyzing individual traits. The low line had a lower BW and WW, but a higher litter size, and greater robustness owing to a higher survival at weaning. As a model of livestock animals, the findings from this experiment led to a proposal of selection for pig production that would combine an increase in litter size with higher survival and welfare. Compared with the control line, a much higher response was observed in the low variability line than in the high line, making it extremely satisfactory given that homogeneity provides advantages in terms of animal welfare and robustness.