Epigenetic Regulation and Environmental Sex Determination in Cichlid Fishes

By Renn, Suzy C.P & P.L. Hurd

Sexual Development, pp. epub 25-Aug-2021. DOI: 10.1159/000517197

" Studying environmental sex determination (ESD) in cichlids provides a phylogenetic and comparative approach to understand the evolution of the underlying mechanisms, their impact on the evolution of the overlying systems, and the neuroethology of life history strategies. Natural selection normally favors parents who invest equally in the development of male and female offspring, but evolution may favor deviations from this 50:50 ratio when environmental conditions produce an advantage for doing so. Many species of cichlids demonstrate ESD in response to water chemistry (temperature, pH, and oxygen concentration). The relative strengths of and the exact interactions between these factors vary between congeners, demonstrating genetic variation in sensitivity. The presence of sizable proportions of the less common sex towards the environmental extremes in most species strongly suggests the presence of some genetic sex-determining loci acting in parallel with the ESD factors. Sex determination and differentiation in these species does not seem to result in the organization of a final and irreversible sexual fate, so much as a life-long ongoing battle between competing male- and female-determining genetic and hormonal networks governed by epigenetic factors. We discuss what is and is not known about the epigenetic mechanism behind the differentiation of both gonads and sex differences in the brain. Beyond the well-studied tilapia species, the 2 best-studied dwarf cichlid systems showing ESD are the South American genus Apistogramma and the West African genus Pelvicachromis. Both species demonstrate male morphs with alternative reproductive tactics. We discuss the further neuroethology opportunities such systems provide to the study of epigenetics of alternative life history strategies and other behavioral variation "

Classification: Genes and genetics.

Language: English

Renn, Suzy C.P & P.L. Hurd. 2021. "Epigenetic Regulation and Environmental Sex Determination in Cichlid Fishes". Sexual Development. pp. epub. DOI: 10.1159/000517197 (crc11537) (abstract)