Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 5, pp 729–735 | Cite as

DRD4 gene polymorphism in great tits: gender-specific association with behavioural variation in the wild

  • Killu TimmEmail author
  • Vallo Tilgar
  • Pauli Saag
Original Paper


Recent studies indicate that polymorphisms of the DRD4 gene may be related to behavioural variation in mammals and birds. The purpose of this study was to ascertain a connection between DRD4 genotypes and behavioural patterns in a wild passerine bird during breeding time. We evaluated changes in birds’ parental provisioning behaviour in the presence of a novel object. As a behavioural trait, we measured the duration of feeding interruption from the first time that each bird noticed the novel object until they entered the nest box. We found a gender-specific association between DRD4 gene polymorphism and parental behaviour. Males with a CC genotype delayed feeding for a longer period than those with CT and TT genotypes. No significant effect of genotype on provisioning behaviour was observed among females. We conclude that (i) DRD4 gene polymorphism in wild birds can be associated with behaviour related to fearfulness, and (ii) this effect is supposedly gender-specific during the breeding time, potentially explained by sex differences in parental care or hormonal levels.


Great tit Personality variation DRD4 gene Gender-specific association 



The authors thank Kaarin Koosa for help with fieldwork, Jaanis Lodjak for help with data analysis, and Raivo Mänd and anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. This study was financed by an Estonian Science Fund grant ETF8376 from the Ministry of Science and Education Target-Financing project no. 01800004 s09, the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence FIBIR) and from an Institutional Research grant no. IUT 34-8.

Ethical standards

The experiments comply with the current laws of Estonia, specified in text.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Earth SciencesUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia

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