Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

You are what you eat

Environment can have a profound effect on behaviour. EU research has looked at the effects of diet on field cricket activities.
You are what you eat
Correlated behavioural traits, known as behavioural syndromes, are a rapidly expanding study area in behavioural ecology. Not only are these syndromes increasing knowledge on evolutionary genetics but they can point to the drivers behind evolutionary biology.

The DIET AND PERSONALITY (Effect of nutrient intake on the expression of genetic variation in behavioural syndromes) project has written a review on diet-dependent multivariate gene-environment interactions in the field cricket Gryllus bimaculatus. This led to an in-depth study on the effects of nutritional stress on genetic correlations between behaviours in the field cricket and the water strider or pond skater.

Researchers looked at the effects of macronutrient composition on single behaviour, personality and multiple behaviours as well as behavioural syndromes in G. bimaculatus. They found that the expression of behavioural phenotypes – concerning foraging behaviour for an intake target that meets developmental and energy needs – can be altered by changing levels of macronutrients.

Interestingly, nutrition affected the genetic covariance without changing the genetic variance. The covariance, or tendency of two variables to change together, is therefore shaped by the combined effects of environment and genetic correlations.

A greater understanding of the role of environment on development of behavioural correlations promises to shed more light on evolution of adaptable phenotypes and their response to the changing environment. DIET AND PERSONALITY research has been published in peer-review journals including Behavioural Ecology and Animal Behaviour.

Related information

Subjects

Life Sciences

Keywords

Environment, field cricket, DIET AND PERSONALITY, behavioural trait, behavioural syndrome, genetic covariance
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