, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 239-246
Date: 24 Jan 2007

Rapid growth and out-crossing promote female development in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

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Abstract

Sex determination in fishes is often enigmatic, a situation that is often made even more complex by the fact that the process of sexual differentiation in many species may be influenced by environmental conditions. This situation is typified in zebrafish, a popular model organism. Despite the vast array of information available for the species, the genetic controls of sex are unknown. Further, environmental parameters, such as rearing densities, seem to exert an influence on the sex ratios of captive stocks. In an effort to dissect the genetic and environmental controls underlying the expression of sex in this species, we manipulated growth of pure-bred and out-crossed zebrafish by varying their food supply during development. Faster-growing zebrafish were more likely to be female than siblings that were fed less, and out-crossed broods had higher proportions of females than broods from pure-bred crosses. The dependence of sex ratio on feeding rate is readily understood in terms of adaptive sex allocation: zebrafish life history seems to confer the greater pay-off for large size on females. A similar male/female difference in the pay-off for hybrid vigor could similarly account for the female bias of out-crossed broods—and it could be a manifestation of Haldane’s rule.