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Risk-taking behaviour variation over time in sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax: effects of day–night alternation, fish phenotypic characteristics and selection for growth

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Differences in bold and shy personality on sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax were investigated between a population (wild) produced from wild-brood fish and a population (selected) produced from selected-brood fish. During the experiment (112 days), fish were reared under self-feeding condition to characterize the feeding behaviour of each individual fish. Three risk-taking tests (T1, T2 and T3 of 24 h with day–night alternation) were carried out at > 1 month intervals on 180 fish of each strain in order to monitor D. labrax behaviour over time and in relation to the light:dark period. A risk-taking score was evaluated via a preference choice between a safe zone (without food) and a risky zone (potentially with food) by recording the number and the duration of individual passages through an opening in an opaque divider. Results showed that fish performed passages preferentially during the night period and that wild fish were generally bolder than selected fish during T1 and T2 but showed a decrease in risk taking during T3, contrary to selected fish which showed a constant increase in their risk-taking behaviour. The phenotypic characteristics of the bold fish were different in the two strains: wild bold fish were the smallest within the wild strain and selected bold fish presented the higher growth rate within the selected strain. For both strains, these bold fish were also generally characterized by a high feed-demand activity. Fish hunger state thus seemed to be the highest motivation for risk-taking behaviour under the present conditions. Furthermore, behavioural variations over tests such as higher risk taking (number of passages) and faster exploratory responses (higher score emergence) could be interpreted as relevant indicators of the learning process and habituation. According to the results, however, no real difference in coping strategy between strains could be observed at this first stage of domestication and selection.
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Keywords: boldness; choice test; domestication; habituation; learning

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Ifremer, place Gaby Coll, BP 5, 17137 L’Houmeau, France 2: Station expérimentale d’aquaculture, Ifremer, chemin de Maguelone, 34250 Palavas-les-Flots, France

Publication date: 01 November 2009

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