For social animals, the genotypes of group members affect the social environment, and thus individual behavior, often indirectly. We used genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to determine the influence of individual vs. group genotypes on aggression in honey bees. Aggression in honey bees arises from the coordinated actions of colony members, primarily nonreproductive “soldier” bees, and thus, experiences evolutionary selection at the colony level. Here, we show that individual behavior is influenced by colony environment, which in turn, is shaped by allele frequency within colonies. Using a population with a range of aggression, we sequenced individual whole genomes and looked for genotype–behavior associations within colonies in a common environment. There were no significant correlations between individual aggression and specific alleles. By contrast, we found strong correlations between colony aggression and the frequencies of specific alleles within colonies, despite a small number of colonies. Associations at the colony level were highly significant and were very similar among both soldiers and foragers, but they covaried with one another. One strongly significant association peak, containing an ortholog of the Drosophila sensory gene dpr4 on linkage group (chromosome) 7, showed strong signals of both selection and admixture during the evolution of gentleness in a honey bee population. We thus found links between colony genetics and group behavior and also, molecular evidence for group-level selection, acting at the colony level. We conclude that group genetics dominates individual genetics in determining the fatal decision of honey bees to sting.
- Behavioral genetics
ASJC Scopus subject areas