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New Study Finds Fish Genes That Regulate Social Behaviors

Source: Phys.org/Cornell University - February 9, 2018 in Science/Tech

New Study Finds Fish Genes That Regulate Social Behaviors
Photo: USGS/Jane Doe/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

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 Cornell University study.

The paper on plainfin midshipman fish, published Jan. 18 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, highlights a suite of genes in the preoptic area – anterior hypothalamus (POA-AH) that are expressed during behaviors relating to reproduction, parental care and aggression.

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.

“We begin to better understand how changing patterns in  relate to short-term changes in behavioral state,” said Andrew Bass, senior associate dean and professor of neurobiology and  in the College of Arts and Sciences. Bass is the paper’s senior author; Joel Tripp, a graduate student in Bass’ lab, is the paper’s first author.

Plasticity, or flexibility, in social behaviors is crucial for survival and reproduction. When it comes to reproductive success, it’s important that individuals employ alternate strategies when they aren’t equipped to defend a territory and court a mate.

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