New insights into the genetic mechanisms underlying behaivioral variation in wild marine fish


Humans depend on great measure on the welfare of marine ecosystems, not only from the retribution obtained directly from

resource harvesting but also from the benefits derived from healthy ecosystems (i.e. quality of natural resources, biodiversity

maintenance, and ecosystem resilience to anthropogenic challenges). Traditionally, management efforts to preserve marine

resources only contemplated morphological traits of the individuals (e.g. body size). However, more evidence is piling up on

the importance of behaviour on biodiversity conservation. Traits such as exploration, boldness, and activity have a strong

impact on the individual`s reproductive success, thus determining species survival. As other phenotypical traits, fish

behaviour is determined in great measure by its genetic basis. In this project, we propose studying the genetic mechanisms

underlying fish behavioural types. We will use a unique dataset based on state-of-the-art fish-tracking data that provides

long-term behavioural data in situ for hundreds of free-living fish at unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution. We will

complement the behavioural data set with advanced genetic and genomic techniques to find phenotype-genotype

associations by: i) studying the sequence variants of candidate genes, ii) studying the location and abundance of target

proteins in fish brain structures, iii) obtaining multiple brain transcriptomes from individuals showing distinct behavioural

types. The multidisciplinary nature of the project, combining novel behavioural data collection with next generation genomic

techniques, will provide a broad overview of the molecular basis of behavioural characterization. The proposed activities will

open a new line of research in behavioural molecular ecology unprecedented in marine ecosystems. Our results will provide

insight into the molecular basis of behaviour in marine fish, thus leading to a qualitative jump forward in fisheries

management and behavioural biology.