Agonistic behavior in naïve juvenile lobsters depleted of serotonin by 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine
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- Doernberg, S., Cromarty, S., Heinrich, R. et al. J Comp Physiol A (2001) 187: 91. doi:10.1007/s003590000178
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We have been exploring the role of serotonin in fighting behavior in lobsters using a specific model of agonistic behavior, the establishment of hierarchical relationships between pairs of socially naïve juvenile lobsters. We selected this model because the behavior is easily evoked, readily quantifiable, and the effects of experience are eleminated by using socially naïve animals. In these studies we injected a specific neurotoxin, 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine, into juvenile lobsters over a 4-week period and then measured the effects on fighting behavior. This treatment reduces the levels of serotonin in the nervous system and immunocytochemical studies show a dramatic reduction in neuropil staining for the amine. Control animals received vehicle injection alone. All injected animals were paired against larger or smaller non-injected opponents, and three successive 30-min fights were carried out and statistically analyzed. The results were surprising: As with elevations of serotonin, reduced levels of serotonin increased the amount of time animals engaged in fighting behavior. No significant effects were seen on who initiated encounters, who retreated first, or who the eventual winner would be. Thus, in this model, elevation or reduction of serotonergic function increases the tendency of animals to engage in agonistic encounters.