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Individual Variation in behavior - a different take than the Behavioral Syndromes approach

Posted by DNLee on 02 Mar 2010 at 22:24 GMT

This paper was discussed 2/26/10 at the Animal Behavior Discussion Group, St. Louis, Missouri
The ABDG was founded by a Psychology Professor and Biology Professor at the University of Missouri –St. Louis in 1975, the group meets weekly to discuss peer-reviewed articles in animal behavior, behavioral ecology, and psychology. Now students (under-graduate and graduate), post-docs, and professors from nearby universities – including Washington Univesity and St. Louis University – participate in the fun and informal meetings.
I chose this paper and presented it for discussion because I study individual variation in behavior in animals. Compared to my research, this study presented the influence of molecular components (pheromones) on whole organism behavior. Plus, they were able to correlate the behavioral differences to physiological differences (# of ovarioles developed) and differences in genetic expression. I found it interesting, especially how there could measure the different types of (RNA) transcripts from high and low retinue responders. However, it is important to point out that they found no clear pattern of what or how genes affect behavior, but variation was found that is related to the behavioral differences observed. The paper stimulated conversations about gene expression, genetic behavior, placebo effect and gene expression, and how genetic diversity is maintained in a bee colony.
I’m a whole organism biologist. Genes matter, but it’s the Phenotype that counts. This study really sheds light on how complex genetics (and behavioral genetics is) – maybe that’s why I don’t like to touch that tangle. First there are the Genes – thousands of genes – which is the deck of cards we have. Then there are alleles – the specific cards in our hand. Next is the level of expression of a gene – how we play a hand, can we go fish, get more cards, more hearts, spades, face cards. Finally how other genes interact with each other –how others in the game play determines which card you use in that round. Makes

No competing interests declared.