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Filipa Cunha-Saraiva, Rute S Martins, Deborah M Power, Sigal Balshine, and Franziska Schaedelin (2021)

Galanin and prolactin expression in relation to parental care in two sympatric cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika

General and Comparative Endocrinology, 309(113785).

Our understanding of the hormonal mechanisms underlying parental care mainly stems from research on species with uniparental care. Far less is known about the physiological changes underlying motherhood and fatherhood in biparental caring species. Here, using two biparental caring cichlid species (Neolamprologus caudopunctatus and Neolamprologus pulcher), we explored the relative gene-expression levels of two genes implicated in the control of parental care, galanin (gal) and prolactin (prl). We investigated whole brain gene expression levels in both, male and female caring parents, as well as in non-caring individuals of both species. Caring males had higher prl and gal mRNA levels compared to caring females in both fish species. Expression of gal was highest when young were mobile and the need for parental defense was greatest and gal was lowest during the more stationary egg tending phase in N. caudopunctatus. The onset of parenthood was associated with lower expression of prl and higher expression of gal in N. pulcher, but this pattern was not observed in N. caudopunctatus. Our study demonstrates that gal gene expression is correlated with changes in parental care in two biparental cichlid species and extends both knowledge and taxonomic coverage of the possible neurogenetic mechanisms underlying parental care.