Project duration: 
Apr 2024 to Jan 2026


The evolutionary relevance of behavioral traits has been largely debated among biologists. Behavioral changes often constitute the first response to changing environmental conditions. This suggests that behavioral variation among individuals within a population potentially represents the raw material for natural selection, ultimately determining the ecological and evolutionary responses to new selective pressures. However, the genetic basis of behavioral traits remains largely unknown. This uncertainly limits our understanding of the role of behavior in shaping the adaptive potential of natural populations.

In this project I aim to uncover the molecular underpinnings of risk-taking behavior, a key trait associated with survival in the lizard Anolis sagrei in the presence of a newly introduced predator. First, using restriction site associated DNA sequencing (RADseq) data, I will characterize heritability of the risk-taking behavior by estimating its additive genetic variance based on multigenerational pedigrees of lizards that have undergone behavioral assessments. I will then search for genomic regions and variants associated with risk-taking behavior by FST outlier scans, selective sweep scans and genome-wide association study (GWAS) with the use of RADseq and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data. Finally, using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data, I will explore the impact of DNA methylation on the variation in risk-taking behavior to shed light on the role of epigenetic mechanisms in controlling animal behavior. By characterizing the genetic and epigenetic architecture of risk-taking behavior, riskADAPT will decisively advance our understanding of the role of ecologically-relevant behaviors in evolutionary adaptation to rapid environmental changes.

  • riskADAPT