We evaluated the effect of increased plasma cortisol levels on fish antipredator behavior induced by conspecific chemical alarm cues. The experimental model for the study was the Frillfin goby Bathygobius soporator. We first confirmed that the alarm substance induces typical defensive antipredator responses in Frillfin gobies and described their alarm substance cells (epidermal 'club' cells). Second, we confirmed that intraperitoneal cortisol implants increase plasma cortisol levels in this species. We then demonstrated that exogenous cortisol administration and subsequent exposure to an alarm substance decreased swimming activity to a greater extent than the activity prompted by either stimulus alone. In addition, cortisol did not abolish the sheltering response to the alarm chemical cue even though it decreased activity. As predators use prey movements to guide their first contact with the prey, a factor that decreases swimming activity clearly increases the probability of survival. Consequently, this observation indicates that cortisol helps improve the antipredator response in fish.
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.
The effects of ethanol exposure on Danio rerio have been studied from the perspectives of developmental biology and behavior. However, little is known about the effects of ethanol on the prey-predator relationship and chemical communication of predation risk. Here, we showed that visual contact with a predator triggers stress axis activation in zebrafish. We also observed a typical stress response in zebrafish receiving water from these conspecifics, indicating that these fish chemically communicate predation risk. Our work is the first to demonstrate how alcohol effects this prey-predator interaction. We showed for the first time that alcohol exposure completely blocks stress axis activation in both fish seeing the predator and in fish that come in indirect contact with a predator by receiving water from these conspecifics. Together with other research results and with the translational relevance of this fish species, our data points to zebrafish as a promising animal model to study human alcoholism.
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.
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).
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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