Behavioral plasticity in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) with divergent coping styles: When doves become hawks

de Lourdes Ruiz-Gomez, Maria; Kittilsen, Silje; Höglund, Erik; Huntingford, Felicity A.; Sørensen, Christina; Pottinger, Thomas G.; Bakken, Morten; Winberg, Svante; Korzan, Wayne J.; Øverli, Øyvind. 2008 Behavioral plasticity in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) with divergent coping styles: When doves become hawks. Hormones and Behavior, 54 (4). 534-538.

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Consistent and heritable individual differences in reaction to challenges, often referred to as stress coping styles, have been extensively documented in vertebrates. In fish, selection for divergent post-stress plasma cortisol levels in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) has yielded a low (LR) and a high responsive (HR) strain. A suite of behavioural traits is associated with this physiological difference, with LR (proactive) fish feeding more rapidly after transfer to a new environment and being socially dominant over HR (reactive) fish. Following transport from the UK to Norway, a switch in behavioural profile occurred in trout from the 3rd generation; HR fish regained feeding sooner than LR fish in a novel environment and became dominant in size matched HR-LR pairs. One year after transport, HR fish still fed sooner, but no difference in social dominance was found. Among offspring of transported fish, no differences in feeding were observed, but as in pre-transported 3rd generation fish, HR fish lost fights for social dominance against size matched LR opponents. Transported fish and their offspring retained their distinctive physiological profile throughout the study; HR fish showed consistently higher post-stress cortisol levels at all sampling points. Altered risk taking and social dominance immediately after transport may be explained by the fact that HR fish lost more body mass during transport than did LR fish. These data demonstrate that some behavioural components of stress coping styles can be modified by experience, whereas behavioural plasticity is limited by genetic effects determining social position early in life story. KEYWORDS: physiology, limited plasticity, coping strategy, social dominance

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
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: The definitive version of this paper is available at
Additional Keywords: stress, physiology, limited plasticity, coping strategy, social dominance, rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, aquaculture
NORA Subject Terms: Biology and Microbiology
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 16 Sep 2008 11:14 +0 (UTC)

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