Send to

Choose Destination
Dev Biol. 2018 Sep 15;441(2):338-344. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2018.04.017. Epub 2018 Apr 25.

Temperature preference of cave and surface populations of Astyanax mexicanus.

Author information

Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, United States.
Department of Genetics, Developmental and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, 640 Sciences Hall II, Ames, IA 50011, United States.
Department of Biology, New York University, 100 Washington Square East, New York, NY 10003, United States.
Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 1000 E 50th Street, Kansas City, MO 64110, United States; Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, The University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 66160, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, United States. Electronic address:


Little is known about the genetic basis of behavioral choice, such as temperature preference, especially in natural populations. Thermal preference can play a key role in habitat selection, for example in aquatic species. Examining this behavior on a genetic level requires access to individuals or populations of the same species that display distinct temperature preferences. Caves provide a uniquely advantageous setting to tackle this problem, as animals colonizing caves encounter an environment that generally has a different, and far more stable, annual temperature than what is encountered on the outside. Here, we focus on cave and surface populations of Astyanax mexicanus, the Mexican tetra, and examine temperature preference and strength of temperature preference (reflected in the percent of time spent at the optimal temperature). We used a tank with a stable temperature gradient and automated tracking software to follow individual fish from each population. We found that distinct populations of A. mexicanus display differences in both temperature preference and strength of preference. Hybrid crosses established that these are multigenic traits that segregate independently from one another. Temperature preference in many aquatic animals is known to shift towards warmer temperatures following infection with parasites (akin to a fever response in humans). While surface fish infected by the ectoparasite Gyrodactylus turnbulli (a gill fluke) displayed a strong fever response, cavefish showed a significantly attenuated fever response. This work establishes A. mexicanus as a genetically tractable system in which differences in temperature preference can be studied in naturally evolved populations.


Astyanax mexicanus; Behavioral fever; Cavefish; Habitat Selection; Temperature preference

[Available on 2019-09-15]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center