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Stressed mothers – troubled offspring: a study of behavioural maternal effects in farmed

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Mature female Atlantic salmon Salmo salar were given intraperitoneal cortisol implants 1 week prior to stripping to examine the influence of simulated maternal stress on offspring boldness and social dominance. Behavioural tests originally designed to investigate stress responsiveness and coping styles in salmonids (i.e. feeding in isolation, dominance tests and acute confinement) were carried out on the offspring 1·5 years after hatching. In the feeding test, there were no differences between the two treatment groups in total feeding score or number of pellets eaten, but offspring from the cortisol‐implanted females made more unsuccessful feeding attempts than offspring from control females. In dominance tests, there was no difference between controls and cortisol‐treated fish regarding propensity to become socially dominant. A higher proportion of individuals with bite marks, however, was observed in the cortisol group when compared to controls. Cortisol‐treated offspring that gained dominant rank in the dominance tests performed more aggressive acts after stable dominance–subordinate relationships were established compared to control winners. During acute confinement stress, offspring from cortisol‐implanted females showed a reduction in the proportion of time they were moving compared to the controls. These results indicate that the maternal endocrine state at spawning affects several aspects of progeny behaviour potentially related to subsequent success and survival in farmed S. salar.

Document Type: Regular Paper


Publication date: September 1, 2011


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