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Divergent neurogenomic responses shape social learning of both personality and mate preference

Cite this dataset

Delclos, Pablo; Forero, Santiago; Rosenthal, Gil (2020). Divergent neurogenomic responses shape social learning of both personality and mate preference [Dataset]. Dryad.


Behavior plays a fundamental role in shaping the origin and fate of species. Mating decisions can act to promote or restrict gene flow, as can personality traits that influence dispersal and niche use. Mate choice and personality are often both learned and therefore influenced by an individual’s social environment throughout development. Likewise, the molecular pathways that shape these behaviors may also be co-expressed. In this study on swordtail fish (Xiphophorus birchmanni), we show that female mating preferences for species-typical pheromone cues are entirely dependent on social experience with adult males. Experience with adults also shapes development along the shy-bold personality axis, with shy behaviors arising from exposure to risk-averse heterospecifics as a potential stress-coping strategy. In maturing females, conspecific exposure results in a strong upregulation of olfaction and vision genes compared to heterospecific exposure, as well as immune response genes previously linked to anxiety, learning and memory. Conversely, heterospecific exposure involves an increased expression of genes important for neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity and social decision-making.  We identify subsets of genes within the social decision-making network and with known stress-coping roles that may be directly coupled to the olfactory processes females rely on for social communication. Based on these results, we conclude that the social environment affects the neurogenomic trajectory through which socially-sensitive behaviors are learned, resulting in adult phenotypes adapted for specific social groupings.

Usage notes

This data set contains the main behavioral data files used for analyses on personality-related and preference behaviors in this manuscript. These files can be directly used in R. Note that, in the personality data file, females with net preferences of "0" were defined as non-responsive and excluded from mating preference analyses. Please feel free to contact me if you have suggestions or find any errors or inconsistencies in the files. Furthermore, please let me know about your uses of the data.


National Science Foundation, Award: 1501217