Linking personality to larval energy reserves in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).

Madelene Åberg Andersson, Erik Höglund

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There is a surging interest in the evolution, ecology and physiology of personality differences. However, most of the studies in this research area have been performed in adult animals. Trait variations expressed early in development and how they are related to the ontogeny of an animal's personality are far less studied. Genetic differences as well as environmental factors causing functional variability of the central serotonergic system have been related to personality differences in vertebrates, including humans. Such gene-environment interplay suggests that the central serotonergic system plays an important role in the ontogeny of personality traits. In salmonid fishes, the timing of emergence from spawning nests is related to energy reserves, aggression, and social dominance. However, it is currently unknown how the size of the yolk reserve is reflected on aggression and dominance, or if these traits are linked to differences in serotonergic transmission in newly emerged larvae. In this study we investigated the relationship between yolk reserves, social dominance, and serotonergic transmission in newly emerged rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) larvae. This was conducted by allowing larvae with the same emergence time, but with different yolk sizes, to interact in pairs for 24 h. The results show that individuals with larger yolks performed more aggressive acts, resulting in a suppression of aggression in individuals with smaller yolks. A higher brain serotonergic activity confirmed subordination in larvae with small yolks. The relationship between social dominance and yolk size was present in siblings, demonstrating a link between interfamily variation in energy reserves and aggression, and suggests that larger yolk reserves fuel a more aggressive personality during the initial territorial establishment in salmonid fishes. Furthermore, socially naïve larvae with big yolks had lower serotonin levels, suggesting that other factors than the social environment causes variation in serotonergic transmission, underlying individual variation in aggressive behavior
Original languageEnglish
JournalP L o S One
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)e49247
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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