Uncontrollable chronic stress reduces growth disparities in farmed Atlantic salmon

Marco A Vindas, Angelico Madaro, Thomas W.K. Fraser, Erik Höglund, Rolf E. Olsen, Tore S. Kristiansen, Øyvind Øverli

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Individual variation in behavior and physiological traits in a wide variety of animals has been the focus of numerous studies in recent years. In this context, early life experiences shape responses that individuals have to subsequent environments, i.e. developmental plasticity. In this experiment, we subjected 10-month old fish to an unpredictable chronic stress (UCS) regime or no stress (control) for 3weeks. These individuals then underwent the parr-smolt transformation, when salmonids become adapted for the seawater environment, and were subsequently transferred into seawater before the final sampling. Biometric data was collected at the end of each period. Sampling on the final day was conducted in order to analyze basal monoaminergic activity in the brain stem and hypothalamus, as well as gene expression of target genes in the telencephalon. We found that post-hoc sorting of individuals by their serotonergic activity (high and low) resulted in the elucidation of growth and gene expression differences. UCS groups were found to have less growth disparities throughout the experiment, compared to control fish. Furthermore, we found brain serotonergic signaling and corticotropic releasing factor binding protein expression were positively associated with brain stem serotonergic activity, which is consistent with fish showing a stress reactivity neurophysiological profile. In conclusion, we here submit evidence that sorting individuals by their basal serotonergic activity levels may be a useful tool in the study of developmental plasticity. These results may thus apply directly to improving husbandry practices in aquaculture and elucidating neural mechanisms for coping behavior.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Pages (from-to)246-252
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Coping style
  • Developmental plasticity
  • SGR
  • Serotonin
  • Stress


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