The importance of genotype-by-age interactions for the development of repeatable behavior and correlated behaviors over lifetime


Behaviors are highly plastic and one aspect of this plasticity is behavioral changes over age. The presence of age-related plasticity in behavior opens up the possibility of between-individual variation in age-related plasticity (Individual-Age interaction, IxA) and genotype-age interaction (GxA). We outline the available approaches for quantifying GxA. We underline that knowledge of GxA for behaviors is an important step in reaching and understanding of the evolution of plasticity in behavior over lifetime. In particular, the heritability (repeatability) and/or the rank order of behavior across individuals are predicted to change across ages in presence of GxA. We draw on the theory of reaction norms to illustrate that GxA, when present, is likely to lead to developmental changes in the magnitude and possibly sign of the genetic correlation between behaviors (behavioral syndrome). We present an overview of the literature on changes in the ranking of individuals’ behavior across ages, and in the correlation between behaviors. Although all studies were carried out on the phenotypic level, they overall suggest clear scope for increased study of GxA as a process explaining age-related plasticity in behaviors. Lastly, we throughout emphasize that many of the approaches and underlying theory of GxA is applicable to the study of IxA, which is informative as it presents the upper limit of GxA, but is also a more attainable target of study in many systems. Empirical work aimed at understanding IxA and GxA in behavior is needed in order to understand whether patterns predicted by theory on plasticity indeed occur for age-related plasticity of behavior.

Frontiers in Zoology, 12(Suppl1) S2
Barbara Class
Barbara Class

I am a researcher interested in among-individual differences in wild vertebrate populations.