Genetic origins of social networks in rhesus macaques

Lauren J N Brent, Sarah R. Heilbronner, Julie E. Horvath, Janis Gonzalez-Martinez, Angelina Ruiz-Lambides, Athy G. Robinson, J. H. Pate Skene, Michael L. Platt

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159 Scopus citations


Sociality is believed to have evolved as a strategy for animals to cope with their environments. Yet the genetic basis of sociality remains unclear. Here we provide evidence that social network tendencies are heritable in a gregarious primate. The tendency for rhesus macaques, Macaca mulatta, to be tied affiliatively to others via connections mediated by their social partners-analogous to friends of friends in people-demonstrated additive genetic variance. Affiliative tendencies were predicted by genetic variation at two loci involved in serotonergic signalling, although this result did not withstand correction for multiple tests. Aggressive tendencies were also heritable and were related to reproductive output, a fitness proxy. Our findings suggest that, like humans, the skills and temperaments that shape the formation of multi-agent relationships have a genetic basis in nonhuman primates, and, as such, begin to fill the gaps in our understanding of the genetic basis of sociality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1042
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Bonn Aure, Jacqueline Buhl, Monica Carlson, Matthew McConnell, Elizabeth Maldonado, David Paulsen, Cecilia Penedo & the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) for assistance, and Roger Mundry for the use of PSAM software. The authors were supported by NIMH grant R01-MH089484, an Incubator Award from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, and a Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences Fellowship to LJNB. The CPRC is supported by grant 8-P40 OD012217-25 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) of the National Institutes of Health.


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