Genes by themselves don't determine your social standing, Platt added. But social success comes from some combination of social skills and temperament, which appear to have a genetic basis.
"We can see that some of these behaviors have a genetic basis, from what we know of the pedigrees and the network map," Brent said. "But we've only scratched the surface of figuring out which specific genes are associated with each behavior."
Fowler said the article is especially interesting coming on the heels of a study in Nature last year that showed hunter-gatherer networks are not very different from those in modernized human societies. "So now the conversation is about where to draw the line -- how far back did our networks evolve?" Fowler asked. "This paper suggests it may have been a common ancestor with macaques."
Platt's group recently won an additional five years of funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to continue and expand the study. Social network observations are now being done on other troops of monkeys on the island and the blood that has been collected will be subjected to further genetic testing.
Having 75 years of family history, combined with the latest genetic tools and a lot of observational data, is going to open up all sorts of new questions, Platt said. "This is just the first two genes," he said. "We'll hopefully be moving on to sequence the entire genome of each animal" to find even more associations.
"This is the first major part of what will hopefully be a very big puzzle," Brent said.
|Contact: Karl Leif Bates|