Neurobiology of parental care

Mating and parental care are social behaviors with clear effects on fitness but that are temporally incompatible. The timing of this important life history decision is influenced by ecological and physiological factors that are integrated by the preoptic area and hypothalamus that, in turn, mediate the decision to mate or to mother.

In a collaboration with Rebecca Hale at UNC-Asheville, we are using the marbled salamander to identify the neural control of the decision to mate or to mother. Combining genome sequencing, RNA sequencing, and hormonal manipulation, we are identifying how mating decisions and body condition influence the onset and duration of maternal care. In the process, we will reveal the extent to which mating and mothering gene networks are co-regulated.