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Visual information alone changes behavior and physiology during social interactions in a cichlid fish (Astatotilapia burtoni).

Chen CC, Fernald RD - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: Behavior of male African cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni, in their natural habitat suggests that visual cues from conspecifics contribute significantly to regulation of social behavior.These data suggest that seeing a larger male alone can regulate the behavior of a smaller male but that ongoing reproductive inhibition depends on additional sensory cues.Perhaps, while experiencing visual social stressors, the smaller male uses an opportunistic strategy, acting like a subordinate male while maintaining the physiology of a dominant male.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America. chunchun.cc@gmail.com

ABSTRACT
Social behavior can influence physiological systems dramatically yet the sensory cues responsible are not well understood. Behavior of male African cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni, in their natural habitat suggests that visual cues from conspecifics contribute significantly to regulation of social behavior. Using a novel paradigm, we asked whether visual cues alone from a larger conspecific male could influence behavior, reproductive physiology and the physiological stress response of a smaller male. Here we show that just seeing a larger, threatening male through a clear barrier can suppress dominant behavior of a smaller male for up to 7 days. Smaller dominant males being "attacked" visually by larger dominant males through a clear barrier also showed physiological changes for up to 3 days, including up-regulation of reproductive- and stress-related gene expression levels and lowered plasma 11-ketotestesterone concentrations as compared to control animals. The smaller males modified their appearance to match that of non-dominant males when exposed to a larger male but they maintained a physiological phenotype similar to that of a dominant male. After 7 days, reproductive- and stress- related gene expression, circulating hormone levels, and gonad size in the smaller males showed no difference from the control group suggesting that the smaller male habituated to the visual intruder. However, the smaller male continued to display subordinate behaviors and assumed the appearance of a subordinate male for a full week despite his dominant male physiology. These data suggest that seeing a larger male alone can regulate the behavior of a smaller male but that ongoing reproductive inhibition depends on additional sensory cues. Perhaps, while experiencing visual social stressors, the smaller male uses an opportunistic strategy, acting like a subordinate male while maintaining the physiology of a dominant male.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Seeing the larger conspecific male caused the subject to abandon his                            territory in the shelter.(A) The subjects reduced visits to the pot shelter                                (F(1, 380) = 13.535,                                p<0.001) and (B) reduced the                            percentage of time spent in the pot zone out of total observation time                                (F(1, 370) = 8.399,                                p = 0.004). Means with                            superscript letters are significantly different from those without                            letters. Error bars are the standard errors of means.
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pone-0020313-g003: Seeing the larger conspecific male caused the subject to abandon his territory in the shelter.(A) The subjects reduced visits to the pot shelter (F(1, 380) = 13.535, p<0.001) and (B) reduced the percentage of time spent in the pot zone out of total observation time (F(1, 370) = 8.399, p = 0.004). Means with superscript letters are significantly different from those without letters. Error bars are the standard errors of means.

Mentions: The subjects significantly reduced their entries to the shelter (two-way ANOVA main effect, F(1, 380) = 13.535, p<0.001, Figure 3A) as well as a fraction of time near the shelter (F(1, 370) = 8.399, p = 0.004, Figure 3B) after visually interacting with the larger male. However, the stimulus male spent a similar fraction of time spent near the shelter (around 90% time) during the entire experiment (F(1, 179) = 1.532, p = 0.140) indicating that the larger male held his territory ownership. These data show that the larger stimulus male's visual presence alone resulted in the smaller male subject abandoning his territory and the half shelter despite absence of physical or chemical contact.


Visual information alone changes behavior and physiology during social interactions in a cichlid fish (Astatotilapia burtoni).

Chen CC, Fernald RD - PLoS ONE (2011)

Seeing the larger conspecific male caused the subject to abandon his                            territory in the shelter.(A) The subjects reduced visits to the pot shelter                                (F(1, 380) = 13.535,                                p<0.001) and (B) reduced the                            percentage of time spent in the pot zone out of total observation time                                (F(1, 370) = 8.399,                                p = 0.004). Means with                            superscript letters are significantly different from those without                            letters. Error bars are the standard errors of means.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3102105&req=5

pone-0020313-g003: Seeing the larger conspecific male caused the subject to abandon his territory in the shelter.(A) The subjects reduced visits to the pot shelter (F(1, 380) = 13.535, p<0.001) and (B) reduced the percentage of time spent in the pot zone out of total observation time (F(1, 370) = 8.399, p = 0.004). Means with superscript letters are significantly different from those without letters. Error bars are the standard errors of means.
Mentions: The subjects significantly reduced their entries to the shelter (two-way ANOVA main effect, F(1, 380) = 13.535, p<0.001, Figure 3A) as well as a fraction of time near the shelter (F(1, 370) = 8.399, p = 0.004, Figure 3B) after visually interacting with the larger male. However, the stimulus male spent a similar fraction of time spent near the shelter (around 90% time) during the entire experiment (F(1, 179) = 1.532, p = 0.140) indicating that the larger male held his territory ownership. These data show that the larger stimulus male's visual presence alone resulted in the smaller male subject abandoning his territory and the half shelter despite absence of physical or chemical contact.

Bottom Line: Behavior of male African cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni, in their natural habitat suggests that visual cues from conspecifics contribute significantly to regulation of social behavior.These data suggest that seeing a larger male alone can regulate the behavior of a smaller male but that ongoing reproductive inhibition depends on additional sensory cues.Perhaps, while experiencing visual social stressors, the smaller male uses an opportunistic strategy, acting like a subordinate male while maintaining the physiology of a dominant male.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America. chunchun.cc@gmail.com

ABSTRACT
Social behavior can influence physiological systems dramatically yet the sensory cues responsible are not well understood. Behavior of male African cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni, in their natural habitat suggests that visual cues from conspecifics contribute significantly to regulation of social behavior. Using a novel paradigm, we asked whether visual cues alone from a larger conspecific male could influence behavior, reproductive physiology and the physiological stress response of a smaller male. Here we show that just seeing a larger, threatening male through a clear barrier can suppress dominant behavior of a smaller male for up to 7 days. Smaller dominant males being "attacked" visually by larger dominant males through a clear barrier also showed physiological changes for up to 3 days, including up-regulation of reproductive- and stress-related gene expression levels and lowered plasma 11-ketotestesterone concentrations as compared to control animals. The smaller males modified their appearance to match that of non-dominant males when exposed to a larger male but they maintained a physiological phenotype similar to that of a dominant male. After 7 days, reproductive- and stress- related gene expression, circulating hormone levels, and gonad size in the smaller males showed no difference from the control group suggesting that the smaller male habituated to the visual intruder. However, the smaller male continued to display subordinate behaviors and assumed the appearance of a subordinate male for a full week despite his dominant male physiology. These data suggest that seeing a larger male alone can regulate the behavior of a smaller male but that ongoing reproductive inhibition depends on additional sensory cues. Perhaps, while experiencing visual social stressors, the smaller male uses an opportunistic strategy, acting like a subordinate male while maintaining the physiology of a dominant male.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus