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Genetic background and experience affect courtship behavior in male Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata)




Phipps, Nathan M., author
Hoke, Kim, advisor
Angeloni, Lisa, committee member
Kanno, Yoichiro, committee member

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An animal's behavior may be shaped by its genetics and life experience, but the extent to which each of these factors contributes to determining behavioral phenotypes is an outstanding question in biology. Mating behaviors are of particular interest due to their importance in determining fitness. We sought to investigate the genetic architecture of mating behaviors and their plasticity in response to mating experience. Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) occur in streams with either high or low predation rates. This genetic background has shaped the evolution of many behavioral phenotypes, including those involved in male courtship strategy. We observed male guppies from high predation, low predation, and intercross populations in their first encounter with a female, then later repeated the encounter to observe how experience affects mating behaviors. We recorded occurrences of three behaviors – sigmoids, forced copulation attempts, and gonopodial swings – to determine how they are affected by sexual experience and genetic background. We found that the frequencies of sigmoids and gonopodial swings vary depending on genetic background and experience. Our findings support existing literature demonstrating that mating behaviors respond plastically to experience. We also found that intercross guppies matched the gonopodial swing and sigmoid frequency phenotypes of the QH genetic line, suggesting that these behaviors may be controlled by loci that are dominant in the high-predation population.


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