The relative roles of genes and rearing environment on the spatial cognitive ability of two sympatric species of threespine stickleback

Jonatan Martinez, Jason Keagy, Benjamin Wurst, William Fetzner, Janette W. Boughman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Recently diverged populations provide a powerful model for studying trait evolution. Benthic sticklebacks primarily occupy vegetated areas of lakes, a spatially complex environment. Limnetic sticklebacks primarily occupy open water in lakes, a spatially simple environment. In a T-maze spatial learning assay, wild-caught benthic sticklebacks perform better than wild-caught limnetic sticklebacks. It is not known whether this difference has a genetic basis and is thus the result of evolution or is instead a plastic response to the contrasting environments. Question: To what extent are differences in the spatial cognitive ability of benthic and limnetic sticklebacks influenced by genetic differences, rearing environment, or the interaction between the two? Methods: Using wild-caught limnetic and benthic fish from Paxton and Priest Lakes, we made pure-species crosses in the lab. We reared the fertilized eggs in spatially simple or spatially complex lab environments. We used a previously validated T-maze spatial learning assay to quantify the ability of adult fish from each rearing environment to learn an association between a visual landmark and a reward location. Results: Lab-reared benthic fish learned the spatial task faster and made fewer errors than lab-reared limnetic fish, which supports a genetic basis underlying species differences in spatial learning ability. However, we found no significant differences between fish raised in different artificial environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-581
Number of pages17
JournalEvolutionary Ecology Research
Volume17
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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