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Genetic Variation in Male Aggression Is Influenced by Genotype of Prior Social Partners in Drosophila melanogaster

Social behaviors can be influenced by the genotypes of interacting individuals through indirect genetic effects (IGEs) and can also display developmental plasticity. We investigated how developmental IGEs, which describe the effects of a prior social partner’s genotype on later behavior, can influence aggression in male Drosophila melanogaster. We predicted that developmental IGEs cannot be estimated by simply extending the effects of contextual IGEs over time and instead have their own unique effects on behavior. On day 1 of the experiment, we measured aggressive behavior in 15 genotypic pairings (n=600 males). On day 2, each of the males was paired with a new opponent, and aggressive behavior was again measured. We found contextual IGEs on day 1 of the experiment and developmental IGEs on day 2 of the experiment: the influence of the day 1 partner’s genotype on the focal individual’s day 2 behavior depended on the genotypic identity of both the day 1 partner and the focal male. Importantly, the developmental IGEs in our system produced fundamentally different dynamics than the contextual IGEs, as the presence of IGEs was altered over time. These findings represent some of the first empirical evidence demonstrating developmental IGEs, a first step toward incorporating developmental IGEs into our understanding of behavioral evolution.