Behaviour 2019
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Serotonin transporter (SERT) polymorphisms, personality and problem-solving in urban great tits
Andrea S Grunst, Melissa L Grunst, Nicky Staes, Bert Thys, Rianne Pinxten, Marcel Eens. University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Genes in the serotonergic signaling pathway, including the serotonin transporter gene (SERT), are candidates for affecting animal personality and cognition. In a model species, the great tit (Parus major), we reevaluated previous findings suggesting relationships between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in SERT, neophobia and exploratory behavior, and performed a first test of the relationship between SERT polymorphisms and problem-solving performance in birds using an obstacle removal test at nest boxes. We found some evidence for associations between SNPs, neophobia and exploratory behavior. Several SNPs were also related to female problem-solving performance.  Nonsynonymous SNP226 in exon 1 correlated positively with aggressiveness and negatively with success probability during problem-solving tests, and could thus alter problem-solving performance by affecting inhibitory control. Only one SNP-behavior relationship was statistically significant after correcting for multiple comparisons, but several were associated with large effect sizes. Our study provides a foundation for future research on the genetic basis of behavioral and cognitive variation in wild animals.