Biology Colloquium - Dr. Heather Bleakley

Biology Colloquium - Dr. Heather Bleakley

Postby cdouglas » Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:48 pm


“Who You Hang Out with Matters:
Social Partners and the Evolutionary Genetics of Cooperation”

Dr. Heather Bleakley
Department of Biology
Stonehill College
Easton, Massachusetts

Friday, January 25, 2013
3:00-4:00 PM
Science 2, Room 109

Animals often modulate their behavior in response to social partners and some behaviors are expressed only in the presence of social partners. One mechanism for generating these kinds of ‘interacting phenotypes’ is indirect genetic effects (IGEs), which occur when genes in a social partner influence the behavior of a focal individual. Interacting phenotypes are predicted to evolve quite differently than non-interacting traits. Trinidadian guppies, Poecilia reticulata, are an ideal model system for exploring interacting phenotypes and indirect genetic effects because they live and interact in stable social groups, are easily maintained in the lab, and evolve rapidly in response to the specific environment to which they are exposed. Guppies respond strongly to IGEs of social partners for both cooperative antipredator behavior and social learning. The strength of the interaction between partners depends on both the influence of particular social partners and the responsiveness of the focal individual. The strength of IGEs varies across populations and may evolve in response to changes in predation pressure that exert differing degrees of selection for cooperative antipredator behavior. While the influence of IGEs has recently been documented in a small number of taxa, little is known about the genetic architecture of IGEs, how IGEs evolve in natural populations, or the proximate mechanisms that underlie such effects. Future work in my lab will focus on elucidating the proximate mechanisms that generate IGEs and exploring the genetic architecture of IGEs in guppies to better understand how complex social behavior may evolve.

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