Information on the genetic correlation between traits provides fundamental insight into the constraints on the evolutionary process. Estimates of such correlations are conventionally obtained by raising individuals of known relatedness in artificial environments. However, many species are not readily amenable to controlled breeding programmes, and considerable uncertainty exists over the extent to which estimates derived under benign laboratory conditions reflect the properties of populations in natural settings. Here, non-invasive methods that allow the estimation of genetic correlations from phenotypic measurements derived from individuals of unknown relatedness are introduced. Like the conventional approach, these methods demand large sample sizes in order to yield reasonably precise estimates, and special precautions need to be taken to eliminate bias from shared environmental effects. Provided the sample consists of at least 20 or so relatives, informative estimates of the genetic correlation are obtainable with sample sizes of several hundred individuals, particularly if supplemental information on relatedness is available from polymorphic molecular markers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas