Parental genetic effects in a cavefish adaptive behavior explain disparity between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Academic Article uri icon


  • Epigenetic parental genetic effects are important in many biological processes but their roles in the evolution of adaptive traits and their consequences in naturally evolving populations remain to be addressed. By comparing two divergent blind cave-dwelling cavefish populations with a sighted surface-dwelling population (surface fish) of the teleost Astyanax mexicanus, we report here that convergences in vibration attraction behavior (VAB), the lateral line sensory receptors underlying this behavior, and the feeding benefits of this behavior are controlled by parental genetic effects, either maternal or paternal inheritance. From behavioral studies and mathematical evolutionary simulations, we further demonstrate that disparity in nuclear and mitochondrial DNA in one of these cavefish populations that has hybridized with surface fish can be explained by paternal inheritance of VAB. The results suggest that parental genetic effects in adaptive behaviors may be important factors in biasing mitochondrial DNA inheritance in natural populations that are subject to introgression.

publication date

  • September 2012