Reproductive state-dependent visual plasticity in a cichlid fish

January 3 – Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

S9-6  Wed Jan 6 14:30 – 03:00  Reproductive state-dependent visual plasticity in a cichlid fish Butler, JM*; Maruska, KP; Louisiana State University and Stanford University; Louisiana State University

Animals use visual communication to convey crucial information about their identity, reproductive status, and sex. Plasticity in the auditory and olfactory systems has been well-documented, however, fewer studies have tested for plasticity in the visual system, a surprising detail since courtship and mate choice are largely dependent on visual signals across taxa. We used behavioral, gene expression, neural activation, and electrophysiology techniques to test for reproductive state-dependent plasticity in the eye of the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni. Males court ovulated females more intensely than gravid females, and ovulated females were behaviorally more responsive to male courtship than gravid females. Using electroretinography to measure visual sensitivity, we found that gravid females had greater visual sensitivity at wavelengths corresponding to male courtship coloration compared to non-reproductively-receptive females. Hormonally-inducing ovulation further increased female’s spectral sensitivity compared to pre-injection measurements in gravid females only, suggesting an ovulation-triggered increase in visual sensitivity. Ovulated females had higher mRNA expression levels of neuromodulatory receptors (e.g sex-steroids; gonadotropins) in the eye than nonovulated females, and female affiliative behaviors positively correlated with expression of gonadotropin system receptors in the eye. We also compare how opsin levels in the eye vary with reproductive state in males and females. Collectively, these data provide crucial evidence linking endocrine modulation of visual plasticity to mate choice behaviors in females.

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