Skip to main content
  • Research news
  • Published:

Genetics of social behaviour

Social behaviour can be pretty complex at the best of times, and defining the underlying genetic events has provided a formidable challenge. In the November 15 Sciencexpress, Michael Krieger and Kenneth Ross, from the University of Georgia, describe the first clear example of a single gene affecting complex social behaviour (ScienceXpress 10.1126/science.1065247). Colony queen number in the fire ant Solenopsis invicta is associated with variations in the Gp-9 gene, such that worker ants with the B allele are associated with a single queen (monogyne social form), whereas the b allele workers are polygyne. Krieger and Ross sequenced the Gp-9 gene and show that it encodes a pheromone-binding protein. Thus, GP-9 may play a role in chemoreception by influencing worker recognition and acceptance of pheromone-producing queens. The B and b alleles are distinguished by several amino-acid changes. The Gp-9 allele variation is conserved in South American fire ants exhibiting social polymorphism. This study provides fascinating insights into the genetic basis and evolution of complex social behaviour.


  1. Sciencexpress, []

  2. University of Georgia , []

  3. Genetic control of social organization in an ant

  4. Do pheromone binding proteins converge in amino acid sequence when pheromones converge?

Download references


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Weitzman, J.B. Genetics of social behaviour. Genome Biol 2, spotlight-20011116-01 (2001).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: