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East African cichlid fish offer new understanding of genetic basis of sex determination
Date:10/1/2009

ange blotch" pattern, which appears in some female cichlids that live in rocky areas of Lake Malawi.

"We believe that the orange blotch color pattern emerged as a new mutation in females and has a selective advantage in providing an alternative form of camouflage," says Kocher.

Depending on the surrounding natural background, this color pattern can help disguise female fish and help them avoid predation.

However males who express this phenotype lack the species-specific color patterns used by females to select their mates.

"This phenotype creates a sexual conflict because the allele is favored in females but not favored in males," explains Roberts, who mapped the gene. "In 'survival of the fittest,' the genes underlying a beneficial trait will increase in frequency, but this is an odd case where the trait is really good for females but really bad for males."

Using genomic techniques, Roberts identified the gene (pax7) that is responsible for this difference in color pattern.

He found that the orange blotch (OB) allele that produces the variable pigmentation in females was dominant over the "brown barred" (BB) allele (that produces the more common brown pigmentation) and that it was located very near a female sex determiner.

The genetic conflict that started over color was resolved by a new mutation that took over the sex-determining function, and ensured that nearly all orange blotch fish are female.


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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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