Behaviour 2019
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Sensory and neural mechanisms of parent-offspring recognition in a maternal mouthbrooding cichlid fish
Emily Ray, Karen Maruska. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States

Filial cannibalism occurs when a parent consumes their offspring and is present across diverse taxa. Despite its widespread occurrence, how the brain prevents or triggers filial cannibalism is unknown. The maternal mouthbrooding cichlid fish Astatotiliapia burtoni is an ideal model to investigate filial cannibalism control. Females brood offspring in their mouths for ~14 days and provide post-release maternal care by protecting fry in their mouths when threatened. Adult A. burtoni cannibalize fry, thus, mothers and fry must recognize each other during the post-release care phase to prevent maladaptive filial cannibalism. We aimed to determine which sensory signals drive parent-offspring recognition and to identify its neural correlates. Mouthbrooding females were exposed to either only visual stimuli, only chemosensory stimuli, both visual and chemosensory stimuli, or no stimuli from their fry. We compared the resulting behaviors and performed antibody staining for pS6 to quantify neural activation. Preliminary results suggest both visual and chemosensory stimuli may be necessary for parent-offspring recognition and we are currently analyzing neural activation patterns.