Abstract and Keywords
How does an animal’s social environment shape its behavior and physiology, and what underlying molecular and genetic mechanisms lead to phenotypic changes? To address this question, the authors used a model system that exhibits socially regulated plastic phenotypes, behavioral complexity, molecular level access, and genomic resources. The African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, in which male status and reproductive physiology are under social control, has become an important model for studying the mechanisms that regulate complex social behaviors. This chapter reviews what is known about how information from the social environment produces changes in behavior, physiology, and gene expression profiles in the brain and reproductive axis of A. burtoni. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for translating perception of social cues into molecular change in a model vertebrate is important for identifying selective pressures and evolutionary mechanisms that shape the brain and ultimately result in diverse and complex social behaviors.
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