Parental care has evolved several times and is present across taxa. Parental care behaviors, such as food provisioning and protection, are critical for offspring success. However, infanticide can co-exist with parental care in the same species. The mechanisms underlying the switch from care to consumption and from offspring dependence to independence are relatively unknown, especially in fishes, the oldest and largest group of vertebrates. Mouthbrooding, an extreme example of parental care present in dozens of genera of fishes, provides an excellent opportunity to investigate the brain regions important for parental care. The maternal mouthbrooding African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni broods developing young inside the mouth for approximately 14 days, then provides post-release maternal care by protecting fry inside the mouth when threatened. Following the post-release maternal care phase, females can exhibit infanticide and consume their own offspring. We used immunohistochemistry for the neural activation marker pS6 to identify differences in neural activation among mouthbrooding, maternal-care-providing and infanticide-exhibiting females, and between pre- and post-release fry. We identified five brain regions (Dc-5, ATn, nPPa, Vd-c and Dl-g) that are differentially activated among mouthbrooding, maternal care and infanticide females as well as six regions (Dm, Vv, Vd, Vs-m, TPp, PGZ and INL of retina) differentially activated between pre- and post-release fry. This study identifies both shared and distinct circuitry that may support transitions between parental care states and from care to infanticide, as well as regions in developed fry that support the transition from pre- to post-release.

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