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Sociability in Fruit Flies: Genetic Variation, Heritability and Plasticity


Sociability, defined as individuals’ propensity to participate in non-aggressive activities with conspecifics, is a fundamental feature of behavior in many animals including humans. However, we still have a limited knowledge of the mechanisms and evolutionary biology of sociability. To enhance our understanding, we developed a new protocol to quantify sociability in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). In a series of experiments with 59 F1 hybrids derived from inbred lines, we documented, first, significant genetic variation in sociability in both males and females, with broad-sense heritabilities of 0.24 and 0.21 respectively. Second, we observed little genetic correlation in sociability between the sexes. Third, we found genetic variation in social plasticity among the hybrids, with a broad-sense heritability of ~0.24. That is, genotypes differed in the degree of sociability after experiencing the same relevant social experience. Our data pave the way for further research on the mechanisms that underlie sociability as well as its ecological and evolutionary consequences.

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We thank B. Bolker for statistical advice and S. Lodhi, A. Sivajohan, E. Etzler, I. Shams, S. Tao, and C. Baxter for assistance and three anonymous referees for comments.


This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada 2014–03999 to RD, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

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Correspondence to Reuven Dukas.

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AM Scott, I Dworkin and R Dukas declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Edited by Yong-Kyu Kim.

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Scott, A.M., Dworkin, I. & Dukas, R. Sociability in Fruit Flies: Genetic Variation, Heritability and Plasticity. Behav Genet 48, 247–258 (2018).

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  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Fruit flies
  • Genetic variation, heritability
  • Plasticity
  • Reaction norms
  • Sociability, social behavior