Social cues affect quantitative genetic variation and covariation in animal personality traits

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14 Citations (Scopus)


The social environment is expected to have substantial effects on behavior, and as a consequence, its heritability and evolvability. We investigated these effects by exposing Australian field crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus) to either silence or recordings of male acoustic sexual signals. We used a combined pedigree and full-sib/half-sib breeding design to estimate the repeatability, heritability, and evolvability of behaviors related to boldness, exploration, and activity. All behaviors measured were significantly repeatable in both social environments. Additionally, most behaviors showed significant heritabilities in the two environments. We found no difference in repeatabilities between the silent and the acoustic environment but did find significant differences in the heritabilities and evolvabilities between these environments. There was a high degree of similarity between the phenotypic covariance matrices across the two environments, while the genotypic covariance matrices were highly dissimilar. Reflecting this, we found significant genotype-by-environment interactions for most of the behaviors. Lastly, we found that the repeatable aspect of behavior (“personality”) was significantly heritable for most behaviors, but that these heritabilities were higher in the acoustic than in the silent environment. We conclude that the social environment can have a significant impact on the heritability and evolvability of behavior, and argue that evolutionary inferences from phenotypic studies should be made with caution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-553
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


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