Behaviour 2019
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Exploring the Genetics of Parental Care in the Threespined Stickleback
Colby Behrens, Alison Bell. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, IL, United States

Parental care is widespread throughout nature and has independently evolved multiple times in both vertebrate and invertebrate lineages. While critical to the survival of offspring in many species, the level, quality, and complexity of parental care can vary greatly, making it difficult to understand the underlying genetic mechanisms. A potential tactic for exploring this complexity is with a multi-pronged genomic approach that integrates data on DNA sequence variation, gene expression, and gene mapping.  I examined two populations of Nova Scotian three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) which vary extensively in the level and quality of their care.  Males from the parental population care for eggs for multiple days before reproducing again, while reduced-parental males immediately remove eggs from their nest post-fertilization before resuming mating.  I present preliminary data on a newly assembled genome of a reduced-parental care stickleback, differential brain gene expression throughout parenting stages, and early stages of a QTL mapping experiment that aim to uncover which genes influence parental care.