Researchers studying the adaptive significance of behaviour typically assume that genetic mechanisms will not inhibit evolutionary trajectories, an assumption commonly known as the 'phenotypic gambit'. Although the phenotypic gambit continues to be a useful heuristic for behavioural ecology, here we discuss how genomic methods provide new tools and conceptual approaches that are relevant to behavioural ecology. We first describe how the concept of a genetic toolkit for behaviour can allow behavioural ecologists to synthesize both genomic and ecological information when assessing behavioural adaptation. Then we show how gene expression profiles can be viewed as complex phenotypic measurements, used to (1) predict behaviour, (2) evaluate phenotypic plasticity and (3) devise methods to manipulate behaviour in order to test adaptive hypotheses. We propose that advances in genomics and bioinformatics may allow researchers to overcome some of the logistical obstacles that motivated the inception of the phenotypic gambit. Behavioural ecology and genomics are mutually informative, providing potential synergy that could lead to powerful advances in the field of animal behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-270
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Adaptive trade-off
  • Behavioural genetics
  • Behavioural modelling
  • Behavioural optimization
  • Genetic toolkit
  • Phenotypic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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