Modular genetic control of social status in a cichlid fish

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Beau A AlwardR D Fernald


Social hierarchies are ubiquitous in social species, yet the mechanisms underlying social status are unclear. In the African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, males stratify along a dominance hierarchy that varies based on testes mass, coloration, and behavior. Using androgen receptor (AR) mutant A. burtoni generated using CRISPR/Cas9, we find that two AR genes control social dominance. AR{beta}, but not AR, is required for testes growth and bright coloration, while AR, but not AR{beta}, is required for the performance of reproductive behavior and aggressive displays. Neither receptor is required for attacking males. Analysis of AR double mutants revealed that either AR is sufficient for attacking males. Social status in A. burtoni males is modularly controlled by AR and AR{beta}, indicating that these genes have undergone subfunctionalization.

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