Mapping loci associated with tail color and sex determination in the short-lived fish Nothobranchius furzeri

Genetics. 2009 Dec;183(4):1385-95. doi: 10.1534/genetics.109.108670. Epub 2009 Sep 28.


The African fish Nothobranchius furzeri is the shortest-lived vertebrate species that can reproduce in captivity, with a median life span of 9-11 weeks for the shortest-lived strain. Natural populations of N. furzeri display differences in life span, aging biomarkers, behavior, and color, which make N. furzeri a unique vertebrate system for studying the genetic basis of these traits. We mapped regions of the genome involved in sex determination and tail color by genotyping microsatellite markers in the F(2) progeny of a cross between a short-lived, yellow-tailed strain and a long-lived, red-tailed strain of N. furzeri. We identified one region linked with the yellow/red tail color that maps close to melanocortin 1 receptor (mc1r), a gene involved in pigmentation in several vertebrate species. Analysis of the segregation of sex-linked markers revealed that N. furzeri has a genetic sex determination system with males as the heterogametic sex and markedly reduced recombination in the male sex-determining region. Our results demonstrate that both naturally-evolved pigmentation differences and sex determination in N. furzeri are controlled by simple genetic mechanisms and set the stage for the molecular genetic dissection of factors underlying such traits. The microsatellite-based linkage map we developed for N. furzeri will also facilitate analysis of the genetic architecture of traits that characterize this group of vertebrates, including short life span and adaptation to extreme environmental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Cyprinodontiformes / anatomy & histology*
  • Cyprinodontiformes / genetics*
  • Cyprinodontiformes / physiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Loci / genetics*
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / genetics
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Determination Processes*
  • Synteny
  • Tail / anatomy & histology*


  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1