Evolution of sociability by artificial selection
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There has been extensive research on the ecology and evolution of social life in animals that live in groups. Less attention, however, has been devoted to apparently solitary species, even though recent research indicates that they also possess complex social behaviors. To address this knowledge gap, we artificially selected on sociability, defined as the tendency to engage in nonaggressive activities with others, in fruit flies. Our goal was to quantify the factors that determine the level of sociability and the traits correlated with this feature. After 25 generations of selection, the high-sociability lineages showed sociability scores about 50% higher than did the low-sociability lineages. Experiments using the evolved lineages indicated that there were no differences in mating success between flies from the low and high lineages. Both males and females from the low lineages, however, were more aggressive than males and females from the high lineages. Finally, the evolved lineages maintained their sociability scores after 10 generations of relaxed selection, suggesting no costs to maintaining low and high sociability, at least under our settings. Sociability is a complex trait, which we currently assess through genomic work on the evolved lineages.
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