Covariation between behaviour and physiology indicators of coping style in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Christian Tudorache, Marcel J M Schaaf, Hans Slabbekoorn
Journal of Endocrinology 2013, 219 (3): 251-8
All vertebrates exhibit physiological responses to a wide variety of stressors. The amplitude and profile of the response depend on the intensity, duration, controllability and predictability of the stressor, but there is also individual variation in the response, termed coping style. A better understanding of the expression of coping styles is of great value for medical applications, animal welfare issues and conservation. Here, we investigated the effect of repeated netting stress on proactive and reactive zebrafish (Danio rerio) as an upcoming model system for stress research. Fish were separated by coping styles according to the order of entering a novel environment. Subsequently, repeated netting stress was applied as stressor, over a period of 21 days. Full-body cortisol levels were determined at 0, 15, 30, 60 and 120 min after the last repeated stress event. Our results show that reactive fish display i) increased basal cortisol concentrations after being repeatedly stressed, ii) higher cortisol secretion over time and iii) slow recovery of cortisol concentration towards basal levels after the last repeated stress event. This study shows for the first time in zebrafish that different coping styles are associated with different cortisol responses during the recovery from stress over time and that coping styles can explain otherwise unaccounted variation in physiological stress responses.

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