The effects of early and adult social environment on zebrafish (Danio rerio) behavior
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Because early social experience can have a profound effect on later mate and social choices, the availability of options and decisions made early in development can have major effects on adult behavior. Herein, we use strain differences among zebrafish, Danio rerio, as an experimental tool to test the effects of social experience on behavior. By manipulating the strain composition of groups in which the subject fish are housed at different ages, we tested (1) whether mixing with dissimilar individuals influenced subsequent behavior, (2) whether prolonged mixing during the juvenile stage had a more pronounced effect than a shorter period of mixing during adulthood and (3) whether mixing had a lasting effect after animals were resorted into groups of same strain animals. We found that social experience had a profound impact on social behavior. Both Nadia and TM1 individuals engaged in more frequent biting after having been in mixed strain groups compared to pure strain groups. This was true of groups mixed as juveniles, as well as adults, indicating that this response was not dependent on exposure during a critical developmental period. Also, TM1 fish (but not Nadia) having recently been housed in mixed-strain groups were more willing to leave the immediate vicinity of a shoal than were TM1 fish raised in pure strain groups. This change was more pronounced in groups mixed as juveniles than as adults. In addition, the observed changes persisted after mixed groups were separated into pure strain groups for a month. Other behavioral measures including Activity Level, Predator Response and Stress Recovery were unaffected by previous social experience.
KeywordsSocial experience Aggression Boldness Zebrafish
We thank Erin Churchill for animal husbandry; the animal quarters staff at Indiana University for fish care and maintenance; Padrick Anderson, Awilda Acarón and Jennifer Wright for assistance in scoring videotaped trials; and to Candice Clark, Winnie Ho, Erin Kelso, Saúl Nava, Mayté Ruiz, and Cuauhcihuatl Vital for useful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. This research was supported in part by a National Science Foundation award to EPM (IOB-0543491) and by a National Science Foundation and Idaho University EPSCoR award (EPS-044789) to B. Robison. All experiments comply with current laws of the United States and with the Animal Care Guidelines of Indiana University (BIACUC Protocol Approval #: 05-096).
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