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Author Notes:

Correspondence: Donna L. Maney, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA, O. Wayne Rollins Research Center, 1510 Clifton Road NE, Room 2006, Mail Stop 1940-001-AC, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA; Email: dmaney@emory.edu

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank Demesew Abebe, Jennifer Asher, Erin Baldwin, Anya Grozhik, Christopher Horoszko, Josh Lowman, Lisa Matragrano, Katy Renfro, and Carlos Rodriguez for technical assistance.

Christopher Malinsky of the Smithsonian Institution assisted with museum skin preparation.

We also thank the Biology Department at Emory University for the use of resources.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by NIMH 1R01MH082833-01A2 to DLM. JWT was supported by the NHGRI Intramural Research program at the NIH.


  • Aggression
  • Alternative phenotypes
  • Chromosomal inversion
  • Life history strategies
  • Polymorphism
  • White-throated sparrow

Behavioral Characterization of a White-Throated Sparrow Homozygous for the ZAL2m Chromosomal Rearrangement


Journal Title:

Behavior Genetics


Volume 43, Number 1


, Pages 60-70

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


The white-throated sparrow is rapidly becoming an important model in the genetics of social behavior because of a chromosomal rearrangement that segregates with a behavioral phenotype. Within a population, 50 % of individuals are heterozygous for a rearranged chromosome 2 (ZAL2m). These birds sing more and are more aggressive than the other 50 %, who lack the rearrangement. A disassortative mating system, in which heterozygotes almost never interbreed, ensures that ZAL2m/2m homozygotes are extremely rare. Here, we provide the first systematic characterization of such a homozygote, a hatch-year female. Her plumage was atypical of her age and sex, resembling that of an adult male. She was extremely vocal and aggressive, dominating her opponents in behavioral tests. Her phenotype was thus an exaggerated version of a typical ZAL2/2m heterozygote, supporting the hypothesis that alleles inside the ZAL2m rearrangement confer high aggression and further emphasizing this species’ value as a model of social behavior.

Copyright information:

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

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