Variable neuroendocrine responses to ecologically-relevant challenges in sticklebacks

Bell, Alison M.; Backström, Tobias; Huntingford, Felicity A.; Pottinger, Tom G.; Winberg, Svante. 2007 Variable neuroendocrine responses to ecologically-relevant challenges in sticklebacks. Physiology & Behavior, 91 (1). 15-25.

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Here, we compare the behavioral, endocrine and neuroendocrine responses of individual sticklebacks exposed to either an unfamiliar conspecific or to a predator. We found that the two stressors elicited a similar hypothalamic–pituitary–interrenal response as assessed by whole-body concentrations of cortisol, but produced quite different patterns of change in brain monoamine and monoamine metabolite content as assessed by concentrations of serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE) and the monoamine metabolites 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA), homovanillic acid (HVA) and 3-4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC). For example, relative to baseline levels, NE levels were elevated in individuals exposed to a predator but were lower in individuals confronted by a challenging conspecific. Levels of monoamine neurotransmitters in specific regions of the brain showed extremely close links with behavioral characteristics. Frequency of attacking a conspecific and inspecting a predator were both positively correlated with concentrations of NE. However, whereas serotonin was negatively correlated with frequency of attacking a conspecific, it was positively associated with predator inspection. The data indicate that the qualitative and quantitative nature of the neuroendocrine stress response of sticklebacks varies according to the nature of the stressor, and that interindividual variation in behavioural responses to challenge are reflected by neuroendocrine differences.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water > WA02 Quantifying processes that link water quality and quantity, biota and physical environment > WA02.4 Biological interactions
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: 0031-9384
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: The definitive version of this paper is available at
Additional Keywords: Stickleback; Gasterosteus aculeatus; Behavioral syndromes; Antipredator behavior; Aggression; Glucocorticoid; Serotonin; Stress; Coping styles; Individual differences
NORA Subject Terms: Biology and Microbiology
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 29 Nov 2007 12:56 +0 (UTC)

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