Authors contributed equally to the study.
Flow-mediated plasticity in the expression of stickleback nesting glue genes
Article first published online: 12 MAR 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Ecology and Evolution
Volume 4, Issue 8, pages 1233–1242, April 2014
How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2014; 4(8):1233–1242
- Issue published online: 22 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 12 MAR 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 7 FEB 2014
- Manuscript Received: 6 FEB 2014
- UK Natural Environment Research Council. Grant Number: NE/F019440/1
- animal construction;
- nest-building behavior;
- phenotypic plasticity;
Nest construction is an essential component of the reproductive behavior of many species, and attributes of nests – including their location and structure – have implications for both their functional capacity as incubators for developing offspring, and their attractiveness to potential mates. To maximize reproductive success, nests must therefore be suited to local environmental conditions. Male three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) build nests from collected materials and use an endogenous, glue-like multimeric protein – “spiggin” – as an adhesive. Spiggin is encoded by a multigene family, and differential expression of spiggin genes potentially allows plasticity in nest construction in response to variable environments. Here, we show that the expression of spiggin genes is affected significantly by both the flow regime experienced by a fish and its nesting status. Further, we show the effects of flow on expression patterns are gene-specific. Nest-building fish exhibited consistently higher expression levels of the three genes under investigation (Spg-a, Spg-1, and Spg-2) than non-nesting controls, irrespective of rearing flow treatment. Fish reared under flowing-water conditions showed significantly increased levels of spiggin gene expression compared to those reared in still water, but this effect was far stronger for Spg-a than for Spg-1 or Spg-2. The strong effect of flowing water on Spg-a expression, even among non-nesters, suggests that the increased production of spiggin – or of spiggin rich in the component contributed by Spg-a – may allow more rapid and/or effective nest construction under challenging high flow conditions.