Annika Boussard

Annika Boussard


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Works at Department of Zoology
Visiting address Svante Arrheniusväg 18 B
Postal address Zoologiska institutionen: Etologi 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I am a PhD student in Niclas Kolm´s lab. The overall aim with my PhD project is to investigate variation in brain anatomy and schooling behaviour as potential mechanisms causing individual variation in cognitive ability and thereby, presumably driving cognitive evolution. More specific, I will evaluate how rapid changes in these traits affect especially learning and memory in individual and collective contexts. For this, I will use guppies (Poecilia reticulata) artificially selected for either relative brain size or schooling behaviour. 

Colour discrimination. Credit: Annika Boussard.



A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2019. Stephanie Fong (et al.). Journal of Experimental Biology 222 (10)

    Despite the common assumption that the brain is malleable to surrounding conditions mainly during ontogeny, plastic neural changes can occur also in adulthood. One of the driving forces responsible for alterations in brain morphology is increasing environmental complexity that may demand enhanced cognitive abilities (e.g. attention, memory and learning). However, studies looking at the relationship between brain morphology and learning are scarce. Here, we tested the effects of both learning and environmental enrichment on neural plasticity in guppies (Poecilia reticulata), by means of either a reversal-learning test or a spatial-learning test. Given considerable evidence supporting environmentally induced plastic alterations, two separate control groups that were not subjected to any cognitive test were included to account for potential changes induced by the experimental setup alone. We did not find any effect of learning on any of our brain measurements. However, we found strong evidence for an environmental effect, where fish given access to the spatial-learning environment had larger relative brain size and optic tectum size in relation to those exposed to the reversal-learning environment. Our results demonstrate the plasticity of the adult brain to respond adaptively mainly to environmental conditions, providing support for the environmental enhancement theory.

  • 2019. Amy Rowley (et al.). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 32 (10), 1027-1035

    Post-copulatory sexual selection, and sperm competition in particular, is a powerful selective force shaping the evolution of sperm morphology. Although mounting evidence suggests that post-copulatory sexual selection influences the evolution of sperm morphology among species, recent evidence also suggests that sperm competition influences variation in sperm morphology at the intraspecific level. However, contradictory empirical results and limited taxonomic scope have led to difficulty in assessing the generality of sperm morphological responses to variation in the strength of sperm competition. Here, we use phylogenetically controlled analyses to explore the effects of sperm competition on sperm morphology and variance in sharks, a basal vertebrate group characterized by wide variation in rates of multiple mating by females, and consequently sperm competition risk. Our analyses reveal that shark species experiencing greater levels of sperm competition produce sperm with longer flagella and that sperm flagellum length is less variable in species under higher sperm competition risk. In contrast, neither the length of the sperm head and midpiece nor variation in sperm head and midpiece length was associated with sperm competition risk. Our findings demonstrate that selection influences both the inter- and intraspecific variation in sperm morphology and suggest that the flagellum is an important target of sexual selection in sharks. These findings provide important insight into patterns of selection on the ejaculate in a basal vertebrate lineage.

Show all publications by Annika Boussard at Stockholm University

Last updated: September 10, 2020

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