Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 11, pp 1765–1770 | Cite as

Benefits of kin association: related and familiar zebrafish larvae (Danio rerio) show improved growth

  • Gabriele Gerlach
  • Andrea Hodgins-Davis
  • Bradley MacDonald
  • Rebecca C. Hannah
Original Paper


Zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae prefer the olfactory cues of kin to non-kin. We examined the potential benefits of kin preference by comparing growth rate, shoaling, and aggressive behavior in juvenile zebrafish housed in groups of either familiar kin or unfamiliar non-kin. Over an observation period of 5 days, the animals grew 33% more in kin groups; however, neither shoaling nor the frequency of aggressive interactions was different in groups of related versus unrelated individuals. Shoaling behavior increased with increasing observation time and increasing age, while aggressive behavior remained the same. We conclude that associating with kin probably creates a less stressful environment that allows for higher growth rates, which can lead to higher direct fitness based on increased survival and earlier reproduction. Kin recognition leading to kin-structured groups may therefore be under positive selection.


Kin recognition Kin selection Danio rerio Shoaling Aggression Growth 



The authors would like to thank the animal care staff at the Marine Resources Center for their help in making this experiment possible. We thank J. Atema, T. Bakker and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. We carried out all experiments following the national guidelines of the USA. The Marine Biological Laboratory has an Animal Welfare Assurance on file with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW). Assurance No. A3070-01. The Animal Facility is registered with the USDA Reg. No. 14-R119, I, IACUC No. 06-34.


  1. Abbott DH, Dill LM (1985) Patterns of aggressive attack in juvenile steelhead trout (Salmo gairdneri). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 42:1702–1706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown GE, Brown JA (1996) Does kin-biased territorial behavior increase kin-based foraging in juvenile salmonids? Behav Ecol 7:24–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Delaney M, Follet C, Ryan N, Hanney N, Lusk-Yablick J, Gerlach G (2002) Social interaction and distribution of female zebrafish (Danio rerio) in a large aquarium. Biol Bull 203:240–241PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dill LM, Ydenberg RC, Fraser AHG (1981) Food abundance and territory size in juvenile coho salmon (Onchorhynchus kisutch). Can J Zool 59:1801–1809Google Scholar
  5. Engeszer RE, Ryan MJ, Parichy DM (2004) Learned social preference in zebrafish. Curr Biol 14:881–884PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Feltham MJ (1990) The diet of red-breasted mergansers (Mergus serrator) during the smolt run in NE Scotland: the importance of salmon (Salmo salar) smolts and parr. J Zool 222:285–292Google Scholar
  7. Ferguson MM, Noakes DLG (1981) Social grouping and genetic variation in common shiners Notropis cornutus (Pisces Cyprinidae). Environ Biol Fishes 6:357–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. FitzGerald GJ, Morrissette J (1992) Kin recognition and choice of shoal mates by threespine sticklebacks. Ethol Ecol Evol 4:273–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frommen JG, Bakker TCM (2004) Adult three-spined sticklebacks prefer to shoal with familiar kin. Behaviour 141:1401–1409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Garant D, Dodson JJ, Bernatchez L (2003) Differential reproductive success and heritability of alternative reproductive tactics in wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.). Evolution 57:1133–1141PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Gerlach G, Schardt U, Eckmann R, Meyer A (2001) Kin-structured subpopulations in Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis L.). Heredity 86:213–221PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gerlach G (2006) Pheromonal regulation of reproductive success in female zebrafish: female suppression and male enhancement. Anim Behav 72:1119–1124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gerlach G, Lysiak N (2006) Kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance in zebrafish is based on phenotype matching. Anim Behav 71:1371–1377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gregory TR, Wood CM (1999) The effects of chronic plasma cortisol elevation on the feeding behaviour, growth, competitive ability, and swimming performance of juvenile rainbow trout. Physiol Biochem Zool 72:286–295PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Griffiths SW, Armstrong JD (2002) Kin-biased territory overlap and food sharing among Atlantic salmon juveniles. J Anim Ecol 71:480–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Herbinger CM, Doyle RW, Taggart CT, Lochmann SE, Brooker AL, Wright JM, Cook D (1997) Family relationships and effective population size in a natural cohort of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) larvae. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 54(Suppl 1):11–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lewis DH, Tarpley RJ, Marks JE, Sis RF (1985) Drug induced structural changes in olfactory organ of channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, Rafinesque. J Fish Biol 26:355–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Losy GS, Hugie DM (1994) Prior anesthesia impairs a chemically mediated fright response in a gobiid fish. J Chem Ecol 20:1877–1883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Magurran AE, Seghers BH, Shaw PW, Carvalho GR (1995) The behavioral diversity and evolution of guppy Poecilia reticulata, populations in Trinidad. Adv Study Behav 24:155–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mann KD, Turnell ER, Atema J, Gerlach G (2003) Kin recognition in juvenile zebrafish (Danio rerio) based on olfactory cues. Biol Bull 205:224–225PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Metcalfe NB, Huntingford FA, Graham WD, Thorpe JE (1989) Early social status and the development of life-history strategies in Atlantic salmon. Proc R Soc Lond 256:7–19Google Scholar
  22. Metcalfe NB, Thorpe JE (1990) Determinants of geographic variation in the age of seaward migrating salmon, Salmo salar. J Anim Ecol 59:135–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Olsen KH, Jarvi T (1997) Effects of kinship on aggression and RNA content in juvenile Arctic charr. J Fish Biol 51:422–435Google Scholar
  24. Peuhkuri N, Seppä P (1998) Do three-spined sticklebacks group with kin? Ann Zool Fenn 35:21–27Google Scholar
  25. Post JR, Evans DO (1989) Size-dependent over-winter mortality of young-of-the-year yellow perch (Perca flavescens): laboratory, in situ enclosure and field experiments. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 46:1958–1968CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pouyaud L, Desmarais E, Chenuil A, Agnese JF, Bonhomme F (1999) Kin cohesiveness and possible inbreeding in the mouthbrooding tilapia Sarotherodon melanotheron (Pisces: Cichlidae). Mol Ecol 8:803–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Quinn TP, Busack CA (1985) Chemosensory recognition of siblings in juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Anim Behav 33:51–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rosenthal GG, Ryan MJ (2005) Assortative preferences for stripes in danios. Anim Behav 70:1063–1066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ruhl N, McRobert SP (2005) The effect of sex and shoal size on shoaling behaviour in Danio rerio. J Fish Biol 67:1318–1326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. SAS Institute Inc. (1995) JMP statistics and graphics guide (Version 3.1). Cary, NCGoogle Scholar
  31. Snekser JL, McRobert SP, Murphy CE, Clotfelter ED (2006) Aggregation behavior in wildtype and transgenic zebrafish. Ethology 112:181–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Spence R, Fatema MK, Reichard M, Huq KA, Wahab MA, Ahmed ZF, Smith CR (2006) The distribution and habitat preferences of the zebrafish in Bangladesh. J Fish Biol 69:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. StatSoft I (1995) Statistica for Windows, TulsaGoogle Scholar
  34. Turnell ER, Mann KD, Rosenthal GG, Gerlach G (2003) Mate choice in zebrafish (Danio rerio) analyzed with video-stimulus techniques. Biol Bull 205:225–226PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. van den Hurk R, Lambert JGD (1983) Ovarian steroid glucuronides function as sex pheromones for male zebrafish, Brachydanio rerio. Can J Zool 61:2381–2387Google Scholar
  36. van den Hurk R, Schoonenen WGEJ, Zoelen GAV, Lambert JGD (1987) The biosynthesis of steroid glucuronides in the testis of the zebrafish, Brachydanio rerio, and their pheromonal function as ovulation inducers. Gen Comp Endocrinol 68:179–188PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wright D, Ward AJW, Croft DP, Krause J (2006) Social organization, grouping and domestication in fish. Zebrafish 3:141–155CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriele Gerlach
    • 1
  • Andrea Hodgins-Davis
    • 1
  • Bradley MacDonald
    • 1
  • Rebecca C. Hannah
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA

Personalised recommendations