Using Comparative Transcriptomics to Explore the Evolution of Monogamous Behavior
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Monogamy has evolved independently multiple times across distantly related taxa. Studying the genes governing the development and function of brain circuits supporting such social behavior can reveal important insights into the mechanistic basis of independent evolutionary transitions to a similar behavioral phenotype. RNA-seq was performed on mRNA collected from the forebrains of various vertebrate species to compare transcriptomes between monogamous and non-monogamous species among these taxa. To identify genes repeatedly recruited in independent transitions to monogamy, gene expression in monogamous and non-monogamous species was compared. Multiple approaches were used to ensure robustness in identification of candidate genes. These analyses have allowed the discovery of conserved sets of co-regulated genes associated with monogamy across vertebrate lineages. They have also demonstrated trends in expression that may provide clues to the development of monogamous behavior across diverse taxa.