Janeila Research Campus
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Host: Molly Przeworski
Title: The genetics and neurobiology of rapidly evolving sexual behaviors
Abstract: Over the past 20 years, we have seen great progress in our understanding of the genetic and developmental basis for morphological evolution. For example, it is now widely accepted that morphological evolution results primarily from regulatory changes in developmental patterning genes. By contrast, we have almost no understanding of how behavior has evolved. This is in part because the genetic underpinnings of behavior are less well understood than the genetics of development and also because behavior tends to be more variable than morphology, complicating genetic studies of natural variation. I will review our progress in dissecting the neuroanatomy and genetics underlying a complex, rapidly evolving behavior, fruit fly courtship song. Courtship song is a relatively easy to quantify innate behavior that evolves rapidly. Even species that can be crossed to produce fertile hybrids sing different songs. We have exploited this unusual situation to map the genetic causes of species-specific features of courtship song. If you come to the talk, I’ll tell you about the first gene we have identified that causes natural variation in courtship song.