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Effect of nutrient intake on the expression of genetic variation in behavioural syndromes (DIET AND PERSONALITY)
Start date: Apr 20, 2014, End date: Apr 19, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Behavioural traits are often correlated among individuals, called ‘behavioural syndromes’ in the recent behavioural ecology literature. Behavioural syndromes are shaped by the joined effects of genetic environment factors that simultaneously affecting multiple behaviours. The relative importance of each component has not yet been studied, despite major evolutionary repercussions of alternative proximate underpinnings. In the proposed study, the incoming fellow will use southern field crickets, Gryllus bimaculatus, as a study organism to test whether the acquisition of resources is an important determinant in shaping the expression of genetic correlations across diet environments. Such gene-environment interactions affecting behavioural correlations have been predicted to exist in nature because the expression of behavioural syndromes is environment-dependent in many animal taxa. Given the effect of diet on individual behavioural variation and covariation, nutrients are expected to have a role of shaping behavioural syndromes. The fellow will thus manipulate diet (carbohydrate-high or protein-high) in a quantitative genetics design, and measure multiple behaviours repeatedly. By comparing the structure of genetic correlations across two diet treatments, the fellow can test the role of diet (environment factor) on shaping genetically underpinned behavioural syndromes in crickets. If the expression of genetic correlations is indeed diet-dependent, it implies that behavioural syndromes are evolutionarily ‘labile’. The proposed work thereby represents the first experimental test of the hypothesis that the genetic structure of behaviour imposes constraints on the evolution of behavioural traits. Consequently, this proposed research will highlight how evolutionary approach to the study of behaviour shed light on the study of behavioural adaptation.
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