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Genetic effects on social traits: empirical studies from social animals

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As genome sequence becomes available for a growing number of social animals, so too do opportunities to examine the genetic basis of social behavior, especially cooperation and reproductive division of labor. We can now identify genetic and genomic features that underpin variation in purely social traits, ...

As genome sequence becomes available for a growing number of social animals, so too do opportunities to examine the genetic basis of social behavior, especially cooperation and reproductive division of labor. We can now identify genetic and genomic features that underpin variation in purely social traits, including genes that appear to influence reproductive altruism and self-sacrifice. Moreover, we can measure how gene transcription patterns are associated with individual behavior in changing social circumstances. We believe that this progress stems from two developments. First, the advent of molecular technologies applicable to social insect taxa, and, second, a growing awareness of how molecular biological techniques can be directed towards precise questions derived from sociobiological theory. In this Research Topic, we will examine the joint role that molecular biology and sociobiology play in uncovering the genetic coordination of social life. We ask three central questions. They are: 1 - How does selection act on natural gene variants to shape social breeding systems? 2 - What genes are involved? And, 3 - How are these genes coordinated within a real-life social context? For each, and all, of these questions, we aim to reconcile gene-based theories of social evolution with studies of the very genes present within living social taxa.


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