Megan Gibbons Research Interests:

Heritability and Learning

 

Current theory suggests that most animal behaviors are the product of complex interactions between learning and inheritance.  Part of my dissertation research was devoted to investigating both learning and heritability (the amount of variation that can be attributed to genes) of foraging components in red-backed salamanders.  Because learning may have a large effect on behavior, low heritability estimates of behavioral traits are predicted when they are calculated from experienced individuals. Na´ve individuals, however, provide a unique opportunity for the investigation of the heritability of behavior. Because I was able to collect mothers and eggs, the influence of experience on foraging behaviors was eliminated.  As a result, I obtained significant heritabilities, using full-sib analyses, for several foraging components in neonate salamanders, including the rate of learning. In addition, I found that learning played an important role in foraging for salamanders of all age classes (neonates, yearlings, and adults).

 

 Click here to access the PDF of my publication on heritability and learning in red-backed salamanders

 

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