Aggressive Phenotypes in Malawi Cichlids Associated with V1AR Variant
Schappaugh, Nicholas A.
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The cichlid model provides a great opportunity to explore diversity in behavioral phenotypes. Different groups of Malawi cichlids exhibit distinct patterns of behavior for a variety of scenarios, including aggressive encounters. These cichlids, characterized by the rocky or sandy habitats they occupy, exhibit strong genetic divergence, possessing large numbers of alternatively fixed variants between them. One such variant exists in the gene avpr1a, also known as V1aR, a major receptor for vasopressin in humans. This gene has been linked to behavioral effects across a variety of animal species, with this specific variant likely to have significant structural implications for the receptor product. Here we investigate the aggressive behaviors of a set of rock and sand hybrid fish for their association with the variant observed in V1aR. While specific metrics of aggression showed similar trends in these hybrids compared to those observed in the parental rock and sand species, ultimately these trends were not significant and were inconclusive. However, these results serve as a preliminary investigation of this gene’s involvement in cichlid aggressive behavior. In future work, further examination of the locus will be conducted utilizing more precise and powerful methods in order to draw stronger conclusions.