Genetic Study Reveals Curiosity as a Driver of Biodiversity in Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Fish

Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Fish: Curiosity Linked to Biodiversity | The Lifesciences Magazine


Exploring the Role of Curiosity in Biodiversity

A recent study led by Professor Walter Salzburger from the University of Basel sheds light on the role of exploratory behaviour, or curiosity, in promoting biodiversity among cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika. This behaviour, fundamental to animal personality traits, influences survival probabilities and habitat selection. While curious individuals may explore diverse ecological niches, they also face increased risks of predation.

Behavioural Observations and Genetic Analysis

Dr Carolin Sommer-Trembo, the first author of the study, spent nine months observing the exploratory behaviour of 57 Cichlid Fish species along the Southern shore of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia. Using video recordings from experimental ponds, she analysed how the fish explored new environments. Sommer-Trembo found significant variations in exploratory behaviour among cichlid species, correlating with habitat preferences and body shapes.

To investigate the genetic basis of these behavioural differences, the research team collaborated with Dr. Milan Malinsky from the University of Bern. They developed a novel method for genome analysis, revealing a genetic variant strongly associated with exploratory behaviour. Cichlid Fish species with a specific genetic marker displayed higher curiosity levels compared to those without it.

Implications for Understanding Human Behavior

The identified genetic variant is located near the cacng5b gene, which exhibits activity in the brain. Similar variants in humans have been linked to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, suggesting potential correlations with personality traits. Sommer-Trembo emphasises the study’s broader implications for understanding biodiversity mechanisms and potentially uncovering insights into human personality foundations.

Overall, the study underscores the significance of curiosity-driven behaviour in shaping biodiversity among Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Fish. By combining behavioural observations with genetic analysis, researchers gain valuable insights into the evolutionary processes driving species diversification. Furthermore, the findings open avenues for exploring parallels between animal and human behaviour, offering new perspectives on the origins of personality traits.

Also Read: Symbiotic Relationships Unveiled: Nature’s Intricate Collaborations

Share Now