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Abstract

Animals bred for captivity often have smaller brains and behave differently than their wild counterparts. These differences in brain size have been attributed to genetic changes resulting from, for example, inbreeding depression and pleiotropic effects of artificial selection for traits such as docility. A critical question, though, is whether these differences in brain size are due to plastic responses to the environment, not just genetic changes. We observed a large reduction in brain size in first generation, lab-reared female guppies compared with wild-caught ones (19% smaller telencephalon, 17% smaller optic tectum). We then reared first-generation, lab-born guppies in environments varying in spatial complexity and size in an attempt to isolate factors that might increase brain size and change temperament, but no significant differences in phenotype were observed. The results of these experiments show that, although the environmental factors responsible for the effect have not been found, even first generation lab-reared individuals can have smaller brains than wild individuals.