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Picture of the Day

Fish study identifies genes that regulate social behaviors

Genes in an area of the brain that is relatively similar in fish, humans and all vertebrates appear to regulate how organisms coordinate and shift their behaviors, according to a new study. The genes in this area of the brain, some of which have been implicated in human social behaviors, play a role in the ability of these fish to be flexible in their own reproductive-related social behaviors. There are two types of male plainfin midshipman fish, which makes it an ideal model for studying plasticity in reproductive behaviors. Type I males excavate and defend nests, make humming sounds to court females and parent their young. Type II males reproduce through cuckoldry -- sneaking into the nests of Type I males and fertilizing eggs. In the study, the researchers set up fish in outdoor tanks that simulate natural conditions. When a male sneaked into a nest or hummed to court a female, the researchers quickly removed that male and sequenced genetic material from its brain. This helped determine how much expression levels of certain genes coincided with each courting behavior.

Visit Website | Image credit: Margaret Marchaterre/Cornell University