Journal of Ethology

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 317–323 | Cite as

Nurture is above nature: nursery experience determines habitat preference of red sea bream Pagrus major juveniles

  • Kohji TakahashiEmail author
  • Reiji Masuda


Habitat preference is thought to be genetically programmed in fishes. However, fishes can choose habitat based on their personal experience of an environment. We investigated whether the environment in which fish are raised affects habitat preference in red sea bream Pagrus major juveniles, and tested if the formed preference lasts until later life stages. Juveniles were reared in tanks with a substrate of either sand or artificial seaweed for 40 days. Naive fish were raised without either type of substrate. In the preference test, individual fish were allowed to choose either a sand or artificial seaweed microhabitat. The tested fish were then kept in barren tanks, and similar tests conducted again on days 30 and 100. Sand and seaweed treatment fish preferred the corresponding habitat immediately after the rearing treatment, whereas naive fish did not exhibit any preference. These preferences were maintained when fish were tested on day 30, but not on day 100. The present study suggests that habitat preference is acquired through the rearing environment at the nursery stage, and that this preference lasts for at least 30 days. The formation of habitat preference should help juveniles to choose an optimal microhabitat in a fluctuating environment.


Behavioral characteristics Coastal fish Early life stage Habitat choice Microhabitat Non-associative learning 



The present study was funded by a grant-in-aid for Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellows and Early-Career Scientists (KAKENHI grant nos. 15J06124 and 18K14512, respectively), and a Sasakawa Scientific research grant from the Japan Science Society.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maizuru Fisheries Research StationKyoto UniversityMaizuruJapan
  2. 2.Department of BiologyKeio UniversityKouhokuJapan

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