Cavefish brain atlases reveal functional and anatomical convergence across independently evolved populations. Academic Article uri icon


  • Environmental perturbation can drive behavioral evolution and associated changes in brain structure and function. The Mexican fish species, Astyanax mexicanus, includes eyed river-dwelling surface populations and multiple independently evolved populations of blind cavefish. We used whole-brain imaging and neuronal mapping of 684 larval fish to generate neuroanatomical atlases of surface fish and three different cave populations. Analyses of brain region volume and neural circuits associated with cavefish behavior identified evolutionary convergence in hindbrain and hypothalamic expansion, and changes in neurotransmitter systems, including increased numbers of catecholamine and hypocretin/orexin neurons. To define evolutionary changes in brain function, we performed whole-brain activity mapping associated with behavior. Hunting behavior evoked activity in sensory processing centers, while sleep-associated activity differed in the rostral zone of the hypothalamus and tegmentum. These atlases represent a comparative brain-wide study of intraspecies variation in vertebrates and provide a resource for studying the neural basis of behavioral evolution.

published proceedings

  • Sci Adv

altmetric score

  • 71.28

author list (cited authors)

  • Jaggard, J. B., Lloyd, E., Yuiska, A., Patch, A., Fily, Y., Kowalko, J. E., ... Keene, A. C.

citation count

  • 32

complete list of authors

  • Jaggard, James B||Lloyd, Evan||Yuiska, Anders||Patch, Adam||Fily, Yaouen||Kowalko, Johanna E||Appelbaum, Lior||Duboue, Erik R||Keene, Alex C

publication date

  • September 2020