Convergence on reduced aggression through shared behavioral traits in multiple populations of Astyanax mexicanus Institutional Repository Document uri icon


  • AbstractAggression is a complex behavior that is observed across the animal kingdom, and plays roles in resource acquisition, defense, and reproductive success. While there are many individual differences in propensity to be aggressive within and between populations, the mechanisms underlying differences in aggression between individuals in natural populations are not well understood. We addressed this using the Mexican tetra, Astyanax mexicanus, a powerful model organism to understand behavioral evolution. A. mexicanus exists in two forms: a river-dwelling surface form and multiple populations of a blind cave form. We characterized aggression in surface fish and cavefish in a resident/intruder assay through quantifying multiple behaviors occurring during social interactions. Surface fish, which are aggressive, display multiple social behaviors in this context, which we characterized into two types of behaviors: aggression- associated and escape-associated behaviors. The majority of these behaviors were reduced or lost in Pachn cavefish. Further, both aggression-associated and escape-associated behaviors were not dependent on the presence of light, and both surface fish and cavefish remained aggressive or non-aggressive, respectively, when opposed to fish from a different population. Additionally, we found that within populations, levels of stress response were not correlated with aggression- or escape-associated behaviors. Finally, when we compared aggression- and escape- associated behaviors across four cavefish populations, we found that both types of behaviors are reduced in three cave populations, while still present in one. Together, these results reveal that multiple cavefish populations have repeatedly evolved reduced aggression through shared behavioral components, while other cavefish have retained aggression.Summary StatementComparison of aggression between surface fish and cavefish demonstrates that multiple complex behaviors compose aggression in surface fish and reveals heterogeneity in loss of aggression in cave populations.

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Rodriguez-Morales, R., Gonzalez-Lerma, P., Yuiska, A., Han, J. H., Guerra, Y., Crisostomo, L., ... Kowalko, J.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Rodriguez-Morales, Roberto||Gonzalez-Lerma, Paola||Yuiska, Anders||Han, Ji Heon||Guerra, Yolanda||Crisostomo, Lina||Keene, Alex C||Duboue, Erik R||Kowalko, Johanna

Book Title

  • bioRxiv

publication date

  • May 2022