Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 180, Issue 2, pp 211–220 | Cite as

Behavioral and respiratory responses to stressors in multiple populations of three-spined sticklebacks that differ in predation pressure

  • Alison M. Bell
  • Lindsay Henderson
  • Felicity A. Huntingford
Original Paper


Individual animals of the same species inhabiting environments which differ in the frequency and magnitude of stressors often exhibit different physiological and behavioral responses to stressors. Here, we compare the respiratory response to confinement stress, and behavioral responses to ecologically relevant challenges among sticklebacks from 11 different populations varying in predation pressure. We found that sticklebacks from high predation populations breathed faster in response to confinement stress and were, on an average, more behaviorally responsive to a pike behind glass compared with sticklebacks from low predation populations. These patterns differ from the results of studies on other species, highlighting the need for a conceptual framework to understand the proximate and ultimate factors shaping variable responses to stressors over developmental and evolutionary time. Moreover, physiological and behavioral responses were integrated with each other, both at the individual and population levels. In general, fish that were more aggressive and bold in the presence of a predator breathed faster, independent of body size. These results are consistent with the growing body of evidence that individuals differ in a suite of physiological and behavioral mechanisms for coping with challenges in the environment.


Aggression Antipredator behavior Behavioral syndrome Geographic variation Personality Ventilation rate 



We thank Stuart Wilson, David Alvarez, Susie Coyle, John Laurie and Kate Arnold for help with the fish, and to Andy Young for catching the pike. Funding was provided by a US National Science Foundation International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to AMB. We are also grateful to the many landowners who allowed us to collect fish on their property.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison M. Bell
    • 1
  • Lindsay Henderson
    • 2
  • Felicity A. Huntingford
    • 2
  1. 1.Integrative BiologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Environmental and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland, UK

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