Evolution of stickleback feeding behaviour: Genetics of population divergence at different ontogenetic stages

G. Herczeg, N. I. Ab Ghani, J. Merilä

Research output: Article

10 Citations (Scopus)


The evolutionary significance of individual consistency in a given behaviour - called animal personality - has been subject to a lot of recent research. However, the genetic underpinnings of population divergence in mean personality have rarely been studied, especially across different ontogenetic stages. Previous work has shown that marine vs. pond populations of nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) have undergone adaptive divergence in a series of fitness-related traits, including behaviour. One particular behavioural trait important in this system is feeding activity: giant pond sticklebacks are more active feeders than their normal sized marine conspecifics. In a common garden experiment, we raised individuals from pure and hybrid F1-generation crosses of a highly divergent marine - pond population pair to see if (i) feeding activity and/or its ontogenetic change was consistent between individuals, and if (ii) population divergence at different ontogenetic stages could be explained by additive genetic, nonadditive genetic or maternal effects. We found that feeding activity decreased with age, but that these changes were consistently different among both individuals and crosses. The among cross patterns were consistent with a nonadditive genetic scenario: in the early period pond sticklebacks expressed dominance for high feeding activity, while in the late period marine sticklebacks expressed dominance for low feeding activity. We conclude that nine-spined sticklebacks exhibit different feeding personalities, and that the population divergence in feeding personality is explainable by age-dependent expression of genetic dominance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-962
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - máj. 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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