Interacting phenotypes and the evolutionary process: I. Direct and indirect genetic effects of social interactions

Allen J. Moore, Edmund D. Brodie, Jason B. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

573 Citations (SciVal)


Interacting phenotypes are traits whose expression is affected by interactions with conspecifics. Commonly-studied interacting phenotypes include aggression, courtship, and communication. More extreme examples of interacting phenotypes-traits that exist exclusively as a product of interactions-include social dominance, intraspecific competitive ability, and mating systems. We adopt a quantitative genetic approach to assess genetic influences on interacting phenotypes. We partition genetic and environmental effects so that traits in conspecifics that influence the expression of interacting phenotypes are a component of the environment. When the trait having the effect is heritable, the environmental influence arising from the interaction has a genetic basis and can be incorporated as an indirect genetic effect. However, because it has a genetic basis, this environmental component can evolve. Therefore, to consider the evolution of interacting phenotypes we simultaneously consider changes in the direct genetic contributions to a trait (as a standard quantitative genetic approach would evaluate) as well as changes in the environmental (indirect genetic) contribution to the phenotype. We then explore the ramifications of this model of inheritance on the evolution of interacting phenotypes. The relative rate of evolution in interacting phenotypes can be quite different from that predicted by a standard quantitative genetic analysis. Phenotypic evolution is greatly enhanced or inhibited depending on the nature of the direct and indirect genetic effects. Further, unlike most models of phenotypic evolution, a lack of variation in direct genetic effects does not preclude evolution if there is genetic variance in the indirect genetic contributions. The available empirical evidence regarding the evolution of behavior expressed in interactions, although limited, supports the predictions of our model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1352-1362
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 1997


  • Evolutionary rates
  • Extended phenotypes
  • Phenotypic evolution
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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