Author(s): Sloman KA, Metcalfe NB, Taylor AC, Gilmour KM
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Abstract Two related experiments examined the relationship between plasma cortisol concentrations and the development of social hierarchies in fish. In the first, rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, and brown trout, Salmo trutta, were observed for dominance interactions when confined within single-species pairs for 4, 48, or 168 h. Subordinate members of a pair exhibited significantly higher cortisol concentrations than dominant and single fish, but the pattern of cortisol elevation differed between the two species, being quicker to rise and increasing to a higher level in rainbow trout. Cortisol concentrations were correlated with behavioural measurements; the more subordinate the behaviour exhibited by a fish, the higher its cortisol concentration. Social stress was a chronic stressor, and no acclimation to social status occurred during the week. In the second experiment, measurements of plasma cortisol were made before pairing of rainbow trout and then after 48 h of confinement in pairs. Subordinate fish demonstrated significantly higher concentrations of plasma cortisol both before and after social stress. It therefore appears that in addition to cortisol being elevated during periods of social stress, an association may exist between initial cortisol levels and the likelihood of a fish becoming subordinate.
This article was published in Physiol Biochem Zool
and referenced in Journal of Aquaculture Research & Development