The ability to detect bitter tastes is important for animals; it can help them to avoid ingesting harmful substances. Bitter taste perception is mainly mediated by bitter taste receptor proteins, which are encoded by members of the Tas2r gene family and vary with the dietary preference of a specific species. Although individuals with different genotypes differ in bitterness recognition capability, little is known about the relationship between genetic variation and food selection tendencies at the intraspecific level. In this study, we examined the relationship between genotypes and diet in plateau zokor (Eospalax baileyi), a subterranean rodent endemic to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau that caches food for the winter. We assayed the composition and taste profile of each plant contained in temporary caches and vicinity quadrats, which were representative of selected and available food, respectively. Bitter plant selection indices (Ebitter) were estimated. We also sequenced 26 candidate Tas2r genes from zokors and determined their relationships with the Ebitter of their caches. We identified four key results: (1) zokors varied considerably in both bitter food preference and Tas2r sequences; (2) five genes (zTas2r115, zTas2r119, zTas2r126, zTas2r134, and zTas2r136) exhibited allelic variation that was significantly associated with Ebitter; (3) synonymous SNPs, nonsynonymous SNPs, and pseudogenization are involved in the genotype-phenotype relationship; (4) the minor genotypes of zTas2r115, zTas2r134, and zTas2r136 and the major genotypes of zTas2r119 and zTas2r126 cached more bitter plants. Our results link Tas2r variation with food selection behavior at the population level for the first time. Five genes (zTas2r115, zTas2r119, zTas2r126, zTas2r134, and zTas2r136) exhibited allelic variation that was significantly associated with bitter food selection of zokors. Synonymous SNPs, nonsynonymous SNPs, and pseudogenization are involved in the genotype-phenotype relationship.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- Bitter taste
- Food selection
- Single-nucleotide polymorphism
- Subterranean rodent
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation