Among-individual variation in cognitive traits, widely assumed to have evolved under adaptive processes, is increasingly being demonstrated across animal taxa. As variation among individuals is required for natural selection, characterising individual differences and their heritability is important to understand how cognitive traits evolve. Here we use a quantitative genetic study of wild-type guppies repeatedly exposed to a ‘detour task’ to test for genetic variance in the cognitive trait of inhibitory control. We also test for genotype-by-environment interactions (GxE) by testing related fish under alternative experimental treatments (transparent vs. semi-transparent barrier in the detour-task). We find among-individual variation in detour task performance, consistent with differences in inhibitory control. However, analysis of GxE reveals that heritable factors only contribute to performance variation in one treatment. This suggests that the adaptive evolutionary potential of inhibitory control (and/or other latent variables contributing to task performance) may be highly sensitive to environmental conditions. The presence of GxE also implies that the plastic response of detour task performance to treatment environment is genetically variable. Our results are consistent with a scenario where variation in individual inhibitory control stems from complex interactions between heritable and plastic components.
|Date made available
|25 Oct 2023