Conserved transcriptomic profiles underpin monogamy across vertebrates

Rebecca L. Young, Michael H. Ferkin, Nina F. Ockendon-Powell, Veronica N. Orr, Steven M. Phelps, Ákos Pogány, Corinne L. Richards-Zawacki, Kyle Summers, Tamás Székely, Brian C. Trainor, Araxi O. Urrutia, Gergely Zachar, Lauren A. O’Connell, Hans A. Hofmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (SciVal)


Social monogamy, typically characterized by the formation of a pair bond, increased territorial defense, and often biparental care, has independently evolved multiple times in animals. Despite the independent evolutionary origins of monogamous mating systems, several homologous brain regions and neuropeptides and their receptors have been shown to play a conserved role in regulating social affiliation and parental care, but little is known about the neuromolecular mechanisms underlying monogamy on a genomic scale. Here, we compare neural transcriptomes of reproductive males in monogamous and nonmonogamous species pairs of Peromyscus mice, Microtus voles, parid songbirds, dendrobatid frogs, and Xenotilapia species of cichlid fishes. We find that, while evolutionary divergence time between species or clades did not explain gene expression similarity, characteristics of the mating system correlated with neural gene expression patterns, and neural gene expression varied concordantly across vertebrates when species transition to monogamy. Our study provides evidence of a universal transcriptomic mechanism underlying the evolution of monogamy in vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1331-1336
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2019


  • Deep homology
  • Evolution
  • Gene expression
  • Mating systems
  • Social behavior
  • Anura/genetics
  • Peromyscus/genetics
  • Species Specificity
  • Pair Bond
  • Brain/physiology
  • Reproduction/genetics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal/physiology
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Transcriptome/genetics
  • Arvicolinae/genetics
  • Vertebrates/genetics
  • Songbirds/genetics
  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Gene Expression/genetics
  • Cichlids/genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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