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PNB Colloquium - Graham Thompson - Genes for altruism: inclusive fitness theory in the age of genomics



Graham Thompson
Western University

Genes for altruism: inclusive fitness theory in the age of genomics

Genes have always been central to our understanding of social behaviour. This is evident from the gene-centric theory of kin selection that describes social evolution, and from the widespread use of figurative terms like ‘genes for altruism’ and ‘genes for selfishness’. Despite this understanding, however, it remains rare for empirical studies to look directly at the molecular variants that distinguish social from non-social breeding systems, and even fewer studies attempt to isolate the very genes under kin selection. Using the highly social honeybee as a model, I highlight some recent advances to our understanding of the evolutionary genetics of social life. Specifically, I show how kin selection theory can inform molecular biology to find real genes for altruism - first from identifying candidates from genome-wide association studies, to inferring their position within socially responsive gene networks, to finally testing the function of individual genes via social and genetic manipulations. The honeybee story parallels other advances in the bourgeoning field of sociogenomics.

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Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour (PNB)
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