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The relationship between different types of genetically defined aggressive behavior

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Aggressive behavior is not a unitary trait, and different stimuli/situations elicit different kinds of aggressive behavior. According to numerous data the genotype plays a significant role in the expression of aggressive behavior. However, it remains unclear how genetic predisposition to one kind of aggression is linked with other kinds of aggressive behavior, especially pathological aggression (infanticide). Here, we report on our investigation of the expression of defensive, offensive, predatory and asocial aggression in wild rats selectively bred for 85 generations for either a high level or a lack of aggression towards humans. We found that those rats genetically predisposed to a high level of defensive aggression showed decreased social behavior and increased pathological aggressive behavior towards juvenile males. The highly aggressive rates showed a reduced latency time of attack and an increased latency time of the first social contact. Rats genetically predisposed to defensive aggression demonstrated increased predatory aggression—latency time of muricide was shorter in highly aggressive than in tame animals. At the same time, both lines of rats did not differ significantly in intermale aggression. We conclude that the data indicate a close relation between defensive, predatory and pathological aggressive behavior that allows us to suggest that similar genetic mechanisms underlie these types of aggressive behavior.

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The study was supported by the Russian Scientific Foundation Grant No. 14-25-00038.

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Correspondence to Tatiana V. Ilchibaeva.

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Ilchibaeva, T.V., Tsybko, A.S., Kozhemyakina, R.V. et al. The relationship between different types of genetically defined aggressive behavior. J Ethol 35, 75–81 (2017).

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