We investigated chemical cues among groups of zebrafish (Danio rerio) when communicating information about the risk of predation. We found that visual cues of the predator (tiger Oscar, Astronotus ocellatus) did not increase whole-body cortisol levels in groups of zebrafish but that water conditioned by these (donor) zebrafish stressed (target) conspecifics, thereby increasing whole-body cortisol. This finding was confirmed when these zebrafish groups were in different aquaria and communicated exclusively via water transfer. This result indicates that the stress induced in the target zebrafish does not depend on an increase in whole-body cortisol levels in the donor zebrafish. Because cortisol participation is rejected in this predation-risk communication, other chemicals from the stress systems should be investigated.
We expand the use of eye darkening (ED) to indicate non-social stress in the fish Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus (L.). ED is easily estimated, not requiring any sophisticated equipment, and is non-invasive, facilitating the collection of several measures of stress over time. In the current study, we showed the following: (i) high- and low-ED occur spontaneously, indicating different fish reactions to adjustments to a novel environment; (ii) fish confinement or air exposure clearly increases ED (air exposure is a stronger stressor than confinement), and the time to restore basal values indicates the severity of the impact of the stressor on the fish (this response is not affected by period of the day, e.g., morning or afternoon); and (iii) in adults, females were more responsive (slower recovery) to 2-min air exposure than to 30-min confinement.
Living animals exploit information released from dead animals to conduct adaptive biological responses. For instance, a recently published study has shown that avoidance behavior is triggered by death-associated odors in zebrafish. Stress can clearly act as an adaptive response that allows an organism to deal with an imminent threat. However, it has not been demonstrated whether these chemical cues are stressful for fish. Here, we confirmed that dead zebrafish scents induce defensive behavior in live conspecifics. Additionally, we show for the first time in fish that these scents increase cortisol in conspecifics. To reach this conclusion, firstly, we exposed zebrafish to multi-sensorial cues (e.g., visual, tactile, chemical cues) from dead conspecifics that displayed defensive behaviors and increased cortisol. Also, when we limited zebrafish to chemical cues from dead conspecifics, similar responses arose. These responses coincide with the decaying destruction of epidermal cells, indicating that defensive and stress responses could take place as an effect of substances emanating from decaying flesh, as well as alarm substance released due to rupture of epidermal cells. Taken together, these results illustrate that living zebrafish utilize cues from dead conspecific to avoid or to cope with danger and ensure survival.
Although sex of mature fish is known to influence aggression, this issue has so far been neglected in juveniles. Here, we tested this sex effect and showed that it does not significantly affect intraspecific aggression in juveniles of the cichlid Nile tilapia. To reach this conclusion, we measured the latency period before onset of confrontation, the frequency and types of aggressive interactions, the duration of a dispute, and the probability of becoming dominant. This was done on pairs of Nile tilapia that varied by sex: females×females, males×males, and females×males. In a double blind approach, after pairing, the sex of each individual was histologically verified and contrasted with behavioral data.
Nile tilapia fish were individually reared under similar light levels for 8 weeks under five colored light spectra (maximum wavelength absorbance): white (full light spectrum), blue (?452 nm), green (?516 nm), yellow (?520 nm) or red (?628 nm). The effects of light on feeding, latency to begin feeding, growth and feed conversion were measured during the last 4 weeks of the study (i.e., after acclimation). We found that red light stimulates feeding, as in humans, most likely by affecting central control centers, but the extra feeding is not converted into growth.
In this study, we show that the fish Nile tilapia displays an antipredator response to chemical cues present in the blood of conspecifics. This is the first report of alarm response induced by blood-borne chemical cues in fish. There is a body of evidence showing that chemical cues from epidermal club cells elicit an alarm reaction in fish. However, the chemical cues of these club cells are restricted to certain species of fish. Thus, as a parsimonious explanation, we assume that an alarm response to blood cues is a generalized response among animals because it occurs in mammals, birds and protostomian animals. Moreover, our results suggest that researchers must use caution when studying chemically induced alarm reactions because it is difficult to separate club cell cues from traces of blood.
We investigated the effects of environmental light colors (blue, yellow and white) on the stress responses (measured by changes in ventilatory frequency - VF) of Nile tilapia to confinement. After 7 days of light treatment, the VF was similar for fish in each color. On the 8th day, fish were confined for 15 min. After release, the post-confinement VF was measured six times (first period: 0, 2 and 4 min; second period: 6, 8 and 10 min). Irrespective of the light color treatment, confinement increased the VF to higher levels during the first post-confinement period than during the second one. When color was analyzed, irrespective of time, fish under white light increased their VF post-confinement, and blue light prevented this effect. We conclude that blue light is the preferred color for Nile tilapia in terms of reducing stress. This finding is in contrast to previous choice test studies that indicated that yellow is their preferred color.
Behavioural responses to stress can form distinct profiles in a wide range of animals: proactive and reactive profiles or coping styles. Stress responsiveness can also differentiate between the behavioural profiles. The tendency to regain feed intake following transfer to a novel social-isolation tank (the speed of acclimation) can discriminate between proactive or reactive profiles. Consequently, differential stress responsiveness can be linked to this feeding behaviour trait. This study shows that ventilation rates of Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus (L.), correlate with the rate of feeding resumption, following transfer to a novel social-isolation aquarium. Therefore, ventilation rate (VR) indicates coping styles; consequently, VR is a proxy for the way fish will deal with environmental challenges.
Eye darkening has been linked to social status in fish. The subordinates eyes darken, while the eyes of the dominant fish become pale. Although this phenomenon has been described in salmonid fishes and in the African cichlid Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus, it is unclear whether eye darkening correlates with a reduction in aggressive behaviour. Thus, we evaluated the link between social status and eye darkening. We evaluated whether the eye colours of subordinate fish correlate with the frequency of received attacks in a neotropical fish, the pearl cichlid Geophagus brasiliensis. We paired pearl cichlids and quantified both the aggressive behaviour and the eye darkening of each fish. As has been described for Nile tilapia and Atlantic salmon, a clear-cut hierarchical relationship formed, where dominance and subordination were associated with pale and dark eye colours, respectively. Initially, eye colour darkening was positively correlated with the frequency of received attacks; however, a negative association occurred following eye darkening, in which the intensity of aggressive interactions decreased. Thus, fish that initially received a high number of attacks signalled subordination more rapidly and intensely (rapid and dramatic eye darkening), thereby inducing a negative social feedback mechanism that led to reduced aggression.
We investigated whether juveniles of the nocturnal fish jundiá (Rhamdia quelen) and the diurnal fish Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) are able to chemically communicate stress to conspecifics. Groups of 8 fish were reared in tanks under recirculated water (water exchanged among all the tanks) for each species. Fish were handled in half of the tanks (stressor fish) and whole-body cortisol concentrations were compared among handled fish, non-handled fish exposed to water from the handled fish, and non-handled control fish held with no water communication. For each treatment cortisol concentrations were determined before exposure to the stressor (basal levels) and after 1, 2, 4, 8, and 24h. Basal levels of cortisol confirmed fish were unstressed in the beginning of the experiment. Cortisol was increased in the stressor fish 1h after handling. Fish receiving water from the stressor fish increased cortisol levels later (2h after the stressor fish were handled). As the isolated control group maintained cortisol levels unchanged throughout the experiment, we concluded that some chemical factor was released by the stressed fish in the water and thus stressed the conspecifics. This pattern was similar for both unrelated species, thus suggesting that this communication might have evolved earlier in fish and reinforcing the biological value of this kind of information.
Many studies show environmental enrichment is correlated with benefits to captive animals; however, one should not always assume this positive relationship given that enrichment increases the amount of resources that a territorial animal must defend and possibly affects its aggressive dynamics. In this study, we tested if environmental enrichment affects aggressive interactions in the aggressive fish Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). We compared fights staged between pairs of male tilapia of similar size (= matched in resource holding potential) in a novel arena that was either barren or enriched, to examine whether enrichment enhances territory value in line with theoretical predictions, with the potential for compromised welfare. We evaluated time elapsed until the first attack (latency), frequency of aggressive interactions and fight duration. We detected fight dynamic differences at the pair level. Higher resource value generated increased aggression but had no effect on fight duration or latency. This conclusion is in line with game theory predictions concerning resource value and contradicts the theory that enrichment of the environment will serve welfare purposes.
Descriptions of feeling states in nonhuman animals have relied on indirect evidence from empirical data. Assumptions that fish do not experience suffering lack evidence and in fact contradict a large body of indirect scientific evidence and ethical concern. Why should the burden of proof rest on those defending the hypothesis that fish feel pain and other discomfort? In this article I address this controversy and describe typical methodsand the problems associated with themto identify animal welfare (feeling-based, physiological, and behavioral approaches intended to demonstrate feelings and welfare states). Then I urge a shift in scientific focus from efforts to either identify an internal state of well-being or determine whether an organism suffers, to efforts to identify conditions that promote a "good state" for an animal (i.e., a state it would choose). For this approach, I discuss preference tests and their implications for scientific research, teaching, aquarism, and fishing.
Body size and prior residence can modulate agonistic interaction in several animal species, but scientists know little about these relationships in echinoderms. In this study, we tested the effects of these traits on interactions in the black sea urchin (Echinometra lucunter). After a sea urchin was isolated for 24-h in a glass tank to establish prior residence, we introduced an intruder animal adjacent to the resident in the tank and observed interactions for 30 min. The intruder animal was larger, smaller, or size-matched to the resident. We found body size and prior residence concomitantly modulated interactions among black sea urchins, with prior residence as the major determinant. Black sea urchins mainly exhibited opponent inspection and fleeing responses during interaction to avoid fights, especially when a fight could be seriously disadvantageous (small intruder vs. large resident).
This study analyzed the effects of noise levels and number of visitors on the behaviors of a mother puma and her daughter in a zoo environment with respect to the time of day. The study monitored visitation (noise and number) over two 1-week periods (4 weeks between periods) and frequency of various puma behaviors (videorecorded). The study analyzed videotaped behavior of the pumas based on the time of day and visitors number and noise levels. There was a direct association of puma behaviors with visitors number and noise levels. The daughter puma was the most affected and behavioral changes of both pumas correlated more strongly with the noise level than the number of visitors. The noise level and number of visitors affected the behavior of the mother and her daughter only in the morning. The results of this study indicate that both noise level and number of visitors affected these pumas but revealed the noise as predominant. Moreover, the response of these pumas to visitors depended on the time of the day.
Approximately 50 years ago, Nile tilapia were accidentally introduced to Brazil, and the decline of pearl cichlid populations, which has been intensified by habitat degradation, in some locations has been associated with the presence of Nile tilapia. There is, however, little strong empirical evidence for the negative interaction of non-native fish populations with native fish populations; such evidence would indicate a potential behavioural mechanism that could cause the population of the native fish to decline. In this study, we show that in fights staged between pairs of Nile tilapia and pearl cichlids of differing body size, the Nile tilapia were more aggressive than the pearl cichlid. Because this effect prevailed over body-size effects, the pearl cichlids were at a disadvantage. The niche overlap between the Nile tilapia and the pearl cichlid in nature, and the competitive advantage shown by the Nile tilapia in this study potentially represent one of several possible results of the negative interactions imposed by an invasive species. These negative effects may reduce population viability of the native species and cause competitive exclusion.
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