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Gerlach, Gabriele; Tietje, Kristin; Biechl, Daniela; Namekawa, Iori; Schalm, Gregor and Sulmann, Astrid (2019): Behavioural and neuronal basis of olfactory imprinting and kin recognition in larval fish. In: Journal of Experimental Biology, Vol. 222, UNSP jeb189746

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Imprinting is a specific form of long-term memory of a cue acquired during a sensitive phase of development. To ensure that organisms memorize the right cue, the learning process must happen during a specific short time period, mostly soon after hatching, which should end before irrelevant or misleading signals are encountered. A well-known case of olfactory imprinting in the aquatic environment is that of the anadromous Atlantic and Pacific salmon, which prefer the olfactory cues of natal rivers to which they return after migrating several years in the open ocean. Recent research has shown that olfactory imprinting and olfactory guided navigation in the marine realm are far more common than previously assumed. Here, we present evidence for the involvement of olfactory imprinting in the navigation behaviour of coral reef fish, which prefer their home reef odour over that of other reefs. Two main olfactory imprinting processes can be differentiated: (1) imprinting on environmental cues and (2) imprinting on chemical compounds released by kin, which is based on genetic relatedness among conspecifics. While the first process allows for plasticity, so that organisms can imprint on a variety of chemical signals, the latter seems to be restricted to specific genetically determined kin signals. We focus on the second, elucidating the behavioural and neuronal basis of the imprinting process on kin cues using larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model. Our data suggest that the process of imprinting is not confined to the central nervous system but also triggers some changes in the olfactory epithelium.

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