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- Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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- National Science Foundation
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Brain transcriptomics of agonistic behaviour in the weakly electric fish Gymnotus omarorum, a wild teleost model of non-breeding aggressionAbstract Differences in social status are often mediated by agonistic encounters between competitors. Robust literature has examined social status-dependent brain gene expression profiles across vertebrates, yet social status and reproductive state are often confounded. It has therefore been challenging to identify the neuromolecular mechanisms underlying social status independent of reproductive state. Weakly electric fish, Gymnotus omarorum , display territorial aggression and social dominance independent of reproductive state. We use wild-derived G. omarorum males to conduct a transcriptomic analysis of non-breeding social dominance relationships. After allowing paired rivals to establish a dominance hierarchy, we profiled the transcriptomes of brain sections containing the preoptic area (region involved in regulating aggressive behaviour) in dominant and subordinate individuals. We identified 16 differentially expressed genes (FDR < 0.05) and numerous genes that co-varied with behavioural traits. We also compared our results with previous reports of differential gene expression in other teleost species. Overall, our study establishes G. omarorum as a powerful model system for understanding the neuromolecular bases of social status independent of reproductive state.
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Males that exhibit alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) often differ in the risk of sperm competition and the energetic trade-offs they experience. The resulting patterns of selection could lead to between-tactic differences in ejaculate traits. Despite extensive research on male ARTs, there is no comprehensive review of whether and what differences in sperm traits exist between male ARTs. We review existing theory on ejaculate evolution relevant to ARTs and then conduct a comprehensive vote-counting review of the empirical data comparing sperm traits between males adopting ARTs. Despite the general expectation that sneaker males should produce sperm that are more competitive (e.g. higher quality or performance), we find that existing theory does not predict explicitly how males adopting ARTs should differ in sperm traits. The majority of studies find no significant difference in sperm performance traits between dominant and sneaker males. However, when there is a difference, sneaker males tend to have higher sperm performance trait values than dominant males. We propose ways that future theoretical and empirical research can improve our understanding of the evolution of ejaculate traits in ARTs. We then highlight how studying ejaculate traits in species with ARTs will improve our broader knowledge of ejaculate evolution. This articlemore »
Cooperatively breeding vertebrates are common in unpredictable environments where the costs and benefits of providing offspring care fluctuate temporally. To balance these fitness outcomes, individuals of cooperatively breeding species often exhibit behavioural plasticity according to environmental conditions. Although individual variation in cooperative behaviours is well-studied, less is known about variation in plasticity of social behaviour. Here, we examine the fitness benefits, plasticity and repeatability of nest guarding behaviour in cooperatively breeding superb starlings ( Lamprotornis superbus ). After demonstrating that the cumulative nest guarding performed at a nest by all breeders and helpers combined is a significant predictor of reproductive success, we model breeder and helper behavioural reaction norms to test the hypothesis that individuals invest more in guarding in favourable seasons with high rainfall. Variation in nest guarding behaviour across seasons differed for individuals of different reproductive status: breeders showed plastic nest guarding behaviour in response to rainfall, whereas helpers did not. Similarly, we found that individual breeders show repeatability and consistency in their nest guarding behaviour while individual helpers did not. Thus, individuals with the potential to gain direct fitness benefits exhibit greater plasticity and individual-level repeatability in cooperative behaviour.
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