No evidence for sex chromosomes in natural populations of the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni
Sex determination (SD) is not conserved among teleost fishes and can even differ between populations of the same species. Across the outstandingly species-rich fish family Cichlidae, more and more SD systems are being discovered. Still, the picture of SD evolution in this group is far from being complete. Lake Tanganyika and its affluent rivers are home to Astatotilapia burtoni, which belongs to the extremely successful East African cichlid lineage Haplochromini. Previously, in different families of an A. burtoni laboratory strain, an XYW system and an XY system have been described. The latter was also found in a second laboratory strain. In a lab-reared family descending from a population of the species’ southern distribution, a second XY system was discovered. Yet, an analysis of sex chromosomes for the whole species distribution is missing. Here, we examined the genomes of 11 natural populations of A. burtoni, encompassing a wide range of its distribution, for sex-linked regions. We did not detect signs of differentiated sex chromosomes and also not the previously described sex chromosomal systems present in laboratory lines, suggesting different SD systems in the same species under natural versus (long-term) artificial conditions. We suggest that SD in A. burtoni is more labile than previously assumed and consists of a combination of non-genetic, polygenic or poorly differentiated sex chromosomes.