Galanin neuron activation in feeding, parental care, and infanticide in a mouthbrooding African cichlid fish

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Galanin is a conserved neuropeptide involved in parental care and feeding. While galanin is known to mediate parental care and infanticide in rodents, its role in parental care and feeding behaviors in other taxa, particularly fishes, remains poorly understood. Mouthbrooding is an extreme form of parental care common in fishes in which caregivers carry offspring in their buccal cavity for the duration of development, resulting in obligatory starvation. In the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, females brood their young for ~2 wks and perform maternal care after release by collecting them into their mouth when threatened. However, females will cannibalize their brood after ~5 days. To examine the role of gal in feeding and maternal care, we collected mouthbrooding, fed, and starved females, as well as those displaying post-release maternal care and infanticide behaviors. Activation of gal neurons in the preoptic area (POA) was associated with parental care, providing the first link between gal and offspring-promoting behaviors in fishes. In contrast, activation of gal neurons in the lateral tuberal nucleus (NLT), the Arcuate homolog, was associated with feeding and infanticide. Overall, these data suggest gal is functionally conserved across vertebrate taxa with POA gal neurons promoting maternal care and Arc/NLT gal neurons promoting feeding.

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Hormones and behavior

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