The structure of behavioral variation within a genotype

Zachary Werkhoven, Alyssa Bravin, Kyobi Skutt-Kakaria, Pablo Reimers, Luisa F. Pallares, Julien Ayroles, Benjamin L. De Bivort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Individual animals vary in their behaviors. This is true even when they share the same genotype and were reared in the same environment. Clusters of covarying behaviors constitute behavioral syndromes, and an individual's position along such axes of covariation is a representation of their personality. Despite these conceptual frameworks, the structure of behavioral covariation within a genotype is essentially uncharacterized and its mechanistic origins unknown. Passing hundreds of inbred Drosophila individuals through an experimental pipeline that captured hundreds of behavioral measures, we found sparse but significant correlations among small sets of behaviors. Thus, the space of behavioral variation has many independent dimensions. Manipulating the physiology of the brain, and specific neural populations, altered specific correlations. We also observed that variation in gene expression can predict an individual's position on some behavioral axes. This work represents the first steps in understanding the biological mechanisms determining the structure of behavioral variation within a genotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere64988
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Neuroscience


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