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Cohesive social behaviour shortens the stress response: the effects of conspecifics on the stress response in lake sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens

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An examination was made of whether social interactions can have a beneficial effect through the attenuation of the stress response in a social species. In the first experiment, one larger (mean ±s.e. 194·0 ± 12·5 g) and seven smaller (32·0 ± 2·6 g) juvenile lake sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens were placed in tanks to determine whether a classic dominance effect would be established based on body size (n = 6). Large fish did not establish a territory or aggressively interact with smaller fish, as there were no significant differences in nearest-neighbour distances and an absence of aggressive behaviour (biting, chasing and pushing). In the second experiment, it was hypothesized that the presence of conspecifics would have a beneficial effect through an attenuation of the stress response. Fish in groups or isolation were stressed by a brief aerial exposure (30 s), and blood plasma was measured at regular time intervals (0, 20, 40, 60, 120 and 240 min) following the stressor via an implanted cannula (n = 9–11). The presence of conspecifics did not affect the peak cortisol response, however, the overall cortisol response was shorter in duration compared to fish in isolation. Furthermore, secondary stress variables (plasma ions and glucose) showed differences between fish in groups and isolation. The results of these experiments suggest that social interaction plays an important and beneficial role in regulating the stress response in cohesive social species such as A. fulvescens.

Keywords: cortisol; glucose; group; ion; isolation; lactate

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: Canadian Rivers Institute, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB E3B 6E1 Canada 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada

Publication date: January 1, 2009


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