From Me to We: Searching for the Genetic Roots of Sociality

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2019-03-20
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Indiana University William T. Patten Foundation
Abstract
Studies of genes and social behavior, aided by new genomic resources, are coming of age. Here, I highlight three of the insights that have emerged from these studies that shed light on the evolution and mechanisms governing social life: 1) Nature builds diverse social brains from common genetic blocks in insects and vertebrates, including those related to metabolism and transcriptional regulation; 2) Changes in the wiring of gene regulatory networks are involved in the evolution of insect societies; and 3) The social brain is addicted to altruism.
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Gene Robinson is Swanlund Chair, director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, and director of the Bee Research Facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He uses genomics and systems biology to study the mechanisms and evolution of social life. His principal model system is the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, along with other species of bees. Although Professor Robinson uses the honey bee model in his research, both his research questions and the context of his work are broadly relevant to scientists, social scientists, and psychologists. The goal is to explain the function and evolution of behavioral mechanisms that integrate the activity of individuals in a society, neural and neuroendocrine mechanisms that regulate behavior within the brain of the individual, and the genes that influence social behavior.
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