Studying Neurogenetics in Fish Mating Patterns
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Mate choice plays an important role in reproductive isolation and hybridization between species. Mating preferences are often learned in early social development; therefore an individual's social environment can have important evolutionary consequences by shaping individual preference functions. While decades of research on mate choice have studied the behavioral implications of social exposure, the neural network and specific genes active in developing a learned mating preference remain unidentified. The purpose of this experiment is to shed light on some of the neural mechanisms involved in learned mating preferences of a swordtail fish (Xiphophorus birchmanni) for chemical cues of either conspecific adults or those of a closely related sister species (Xiphophorus malinche) based on social exposure (exposed to adult conspecifics vs. heterospecifics). Studying previously gathered RNAseq data, we identify possible target genes which have been shown to be differentially expressed between exposure treatments. Creating in situ hybridization probes for the candidate genes, we then aimed to identify brain regions where differential expression is occurring in order to gain a better overall understanding of the neural framework of learned mating preferences.
Forero, Santiago A (2017). Studying Neurogenetics in Fish Mating Patterns. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from