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  • 1.
    Buechel, Séverine D.
    et al.
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
    Noreikiene, Kristina
    DeFaveri, Jacquelin
    Toli, Elisavet
    Kolm, Niclas
    Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
    Merilä, Juha
    Variation in sexual brain size dimorphism over the breeding cycle in the three-spined stickleback2019In: Journal of Experimental Biology, ISSN 0022-0949, E-ISSN 1477-9145, Vol. 222, no 7, article id UNSP jeb194464Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Snapshot analyses have demonstrated dramatic intraspecific variation in the degree of brain sexual size dimorphism (SSD). Although brain SSDis believed to be generated by the sex-specific cognitive demands of reproduction, the relative roles of developmental and population-specific contributions to variation in brain SSD remain little studied. Using a common garden experiment, we tested for sex-specific changes in brain anatomy over the breeding cycle in three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) sampled from four locations in northern Europe. We found that the male brain increased in size (ca. 24%) significantly more than the female brain towards breeding, and that the resulting brain SSD was similar (ca. 20%) for all populations over the breeding cycle. Our findings support the notion that the stickleback brain is highly plastic and changes over the breeding cycle, especially in males, likely as an adaptive response to the cognitive demands of reproduction (e.g. nest construction and parental care). The results also provide evidence to suggest that breeding-related changes in brain size may be the reason for the widely varying estimates of brain SSD across studies of this species, cautioning against interpreting brain size measurements from a single time point as fixed/static.

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