Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 547–559 | Cite as

The role of ecological context and predation risk-stimuli in revealing the true picture about the genetic basis of boldness evolution in fish

  • Thomas KlefothEmail author
  • Christian Skov
  • Jens Krause
  • Robert Arlinghaus
Original Paper


To showcase the importance of genotype × environment interactions and the presence of predation risk in the experimental assessment of boldness in fish, we investigated boldness in terms of feeding behavior and refuge use in two genetically different populations of juvenile carp (Cyprinus carpio) in two replicated experimental conditions in ponds and laboratory tanks. The populations were expected to exhibit genetic differences in boldness due to differential evolutionary adaptation to low-predation-risk pond aquaculture conditions. Boldness was measured in variants of open-field trials with and without implementation of additional predation risk-stimuli by angling on feeding spots. Without explicit implementation of risk, genotypes adapted to low-risk environments, i.e., domesticated mirror carp behaved consistently bolder than their less domesticated scaled conspecifics in the pond environment, but not in the laboratory environment. When we implemented artificial risk-stimuli by angling on previously safe feeding spots, boldness differences among genotypes also emerged in the laboratory environment, indicating strong genotype × environment effects on boldness behavior of carp. The expected genetic basis of boldness differences among genotypes was clearly supported in the pond environment, while the laboratory study revealed these patterns only under inclusion of explicit risk-stimuli. Our study thus underscores that boldness may involve both a basal component that is expressed independently of obvious predation risk (e.g., in open fields) and a component revealed in relation to explicit predation risk, and both dimensions may respond differently in behavioral tests.


Genotype × environment interactions Cyprinus carpio Predation risk Common garden Angling 



We would like to thank Thilo Pagel and Tobias Rapp for their help during data collection; Jörn Gessner for providing laboratory and pond facilities; Georg Staaks, Klaus Kohlmann, Christian Wolter, Silva Uusi-Heikkila, Fiona Johnston, and Ashley Ward for the fruitful discussion; and the two anonymous reviewers for the very helpful comments on a former version of this manuscript. Funding was provided by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU, No AZ 20007/924) through a scholarship to TK and through the project Adaptfish by the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Community to RA ( and the German Ministry for Education and Research for the project Besatzfisch to RA ( Our study benefited from the input provided by Thomas Mehner and the participants of the workshop “Scientific Writing” held at IGB.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical note

Animal handling associated with this study was approved through an animal care permit (No G 0178/09) granted by the State Office of Health and Social Affairs in Berlin in accordance with the German Animal Protection Act.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Klefoth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christian Skov
    • 2
  • Jens Krause
    • 1
    • 3
  • Robert Arlinghaus
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.National Institute of Aquatic Resources (DTU-Aqua)Technical University of DenmarkSilkeborgDenmark
  3. 3.Department for Crop and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and HorticultureHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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