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Meeting Abstract

P3-19   -   Sensory and neural mechanisms of offspring recognition in a mouthbrooding model cichlid fish Ray, E J*; Maruska, K P; Louisiana State University; Louisiana State University

Parental care is present across taxa and arose through several independent evolutionary events. The maternal mouthbrooding cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni, is an ideal model to investigate the neural correlates of and sensory signals involved in parental care. Female A. burtoni brood developing young in their mouths for about two weeks, and then provide post-release maternal care by protecting fry in their mouths when threatened. Adult A. burtoni cannibalize fry, thus, parent-offspring recognition becomes critical to prevent mothers from maladaptively consuming their own offspring. Despite the importance of parent-offspring recognition in A. burtoni, the sensory signals and neural substrates involved in parent-offspring recognition are unknown. To identify the sensory signals involved in A. burtoni offspring recognition, we exposed mothers to either only chemosensory, only visual, both chemosensory and visual, or no signals from their fry. We compared the resulting behaviors and performed ps6 antibody staining to quantify neural activation. Results suggest that both chemosensory and visual signals are necessary for offspring recognition in A. burtoni. Further, neural activation patterns differ in the brains of females exposed to different sensory stimuli from their fry. Because fishes are the largest and most diverse group of vertebrates, identifying the mechanisms of parent-offspring recognition in a fish model species will provide insights into the evolution of parental care in vertebrates.