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Behavioural Genomics: An Organismic Perspective

  1. Ryan Y Wong,
  2. Hans A Hofmann

Published Online: 15 SEP 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0022554



How to Cite

Wong, R. Y. and Hofmann, H. A. 2010. Behavioural Genomics: An Organismic Perspective. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2010


The behavioural patterns observed in many organisms generally result from the integration of both external and internal cues. Why do animals behave the way they do? The study of the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying animal behaviour tries to answer this question. Although various approaches have been developed for examining – often quantitatively and with increasing specificity and resolution – the roles genes play in the regulation of behaviour, until recently they were limited to individual candidate genes and often neglected ultimate mechanisms. Advances in genomic approaches in recent years have made it possible to examine gene expression patterns (in the brain and elsewhere) on a genomic scale even in nontraditional, yet ecologically and evolutionarily important model systems. As behavioural genomics begins to integrate proximate and ultimate mechanisms of animal behaviour, we may finally understand why animals behave the way they do.

Key Concepts:

  • A complete understanding of animal behaviour requires the integration of proximate (causation and development) and ultimate (function and evolution) mechanisms underlying the behaviour.

  • Genome-wide expression profiling in the brain (via microarrays or RNA-Seq) allows for an unbiased view of genes potentially underlying a behaviour.

  • The genome responds in a rapid and dynamic manner on onset of behaviour or stimulus presentation.

  • Studies of behavioural genomics open up numerous avenues for future research examining both the intra- and interspecific function(s) of candidate genes, gene networks underlying behaviour and the evolution of behaviour.


  • ethology;
  • genomics;
  • microarray;
  • animal behaviour;
  • genes