Date of Graduation

5-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor/Mentor

Westerman, Erica

Committee Member/Reader

Norman, Mya

Committee Member/Second Reader

Lewis, Jeffrey

Committee Member/Third Reader

Levine, Bill

Abstract

One way to understand the variation in the behavior of animals is by looking at the genes involved. We were particularly interested in behavioral differences between the sexes. How might these differences be manifested in the brain? This study worked to answer this question by using male and female butterflies of the species Bicyclus anynana, examining what is going on in the brains of males and females as they learned from a social exposure. We focused in on how sex plays a role in behavior and learning; it has been seen that males and females respond to the same social experience in similar yet different ways. B. anynana males and females learn from the same experience but exhibit sex biases in the traits they look for as well as in what each are good at learning. We explored whether sex specific biases in learning are associated with sex specific variation in gene expression in perception or higher processing. Males and females were given the same social experience, and the behaviors they exhibited during this training period were recorded. Each treatment - naive versus learning and male versus female - consisted of 10 individuals for a total sample size of 40. At the end of the training period, their heads were flash frozen for later dissection and RNA extraction for eyes and brains. A total of 40 eyes and 40 brains were collected. The RNA was sequenced to look for differentially expressed genes between the sexes. We found 18 differentially expressed genes in the eyes of naïve individuals, 18 differentially expressed genes in the eyes of trained individuals, 19 differentially expressed genes in the brains of naïve individuals, and eight differentially expressed genes in the brains of trained individuals. Genes differentially expressed included ones that control X-box binding protein, circadian clock rhythms, sex peptide receptor, and vitellogenin expression. These genes looked to be differentially expressed as effects of sex, training, or an interactive effect of sex and training. Butterflies, like many species, including humans, are social animals. So, the conclusions drawn from this experiment could be applied to better understanding differences in behavior and genetics of many animals, possibly including humans. This can help in understanding more about human biology. This is especially important in today’s world as individualized medicine becomes more and more prevalent.

Keywords

butterflies, social behavior, differential expression, sex differences, eyes and brain

Available for download on Wednesday, April 28, 2021

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