Image of the Day: Cichlid Cranium

Maternal care for the fish alters the structure of their developing heads.

Jul 25, 2019
Nicoletta Lanese
ABOVE: A developing Malawi eyebiter (Dimidiochromis compressiceps) 16 days after fertilization, its cartilage (blue) and bone (red) stained for examination. (Scale bar is 1 mm.)
TIFFANY ARMSTRONG

African cichlid mothers cradle their eggs in their mouths after fertilization, holding them close through development, hatching, and the first few weeks of life. Research suggests that the length and quality of this maternal care alters the young fishes’ brain development, behavior, and craniofacial structure, an important trait for feeding behavior. Graduate student Tiffany Armstrong investigates how head morphology of various cichilids changes when their brooding time gets cut short.    

Dimidiochromis compressiceps is a mouthbrooding species, like many other African cichlids, which has extended care for its young . . . so lends itself well to the investigation of maternal care effects,” explains Armstrong, who attends the University of Glasgow, in an email to The Scientist

Nicoletta Lanese is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at nlanese@the-scientist.com.