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Data from: The heritability of behavior: a meta-analysis

Cite this dataset

Dochtermann, Ned A. et al. (2019). Data from: The heritability of behavior: a meta-analysis [Dataset]. Dryad.


The contribution of genetic variation to phenotypes is a central factor in whether and how populations respond to selection. The most common approach to estimating this influences is via the calculation of heritabilities, which summarize the contribution of genetic variation to phenotypic variation. Heritabilities also indicate the relative affect of genetic variation on phenotypes versus that of environmental sources of variation. For labile traits like behavioral responses, life-history traits, and physiological responses, estimation of heritabilities is important as these traits are strongly influenced by the environment. Thus, knowing whether or not genetic variation is present within populations is necessary to understand whether or not these populations can evolve in response to selection. Here we report the results of a meta-analysis summarizing what we currently know about the heritability of behavior. Using phylogenetically controlled methods we assessed the average heritability of behavior (0.235)—which is similar to that reported in previous analyses of physiological and life-history traits—and examined differences among taxa, behavioral classifications, and other biologically relevant factors. We found that there was considerable variation among behaviors as to how heritable they were, with migratory behaviors being the most heritable. Interestingly, we found no effect of phylogeny on estimates of heritability. These results suggest, first, that behavior may not be particularly unique in the degree to which it is influenced by factors other than genetics and, second, that those factors influencing whether a behavioral trait will have low or high heritability require further consideration.

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National Science Foundation, Award: 1557951