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The effects of increased flow rates on linear dominance hierarchies and physiological function in brown trout, Salmo trutta

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The formation of dominance hierarchies within groups of salmonid fish is well documented and stream tanks are often used to create environmentally relevant conditions in which to study this aspect of fish behaviour. Although stream tanks simulate the natural environment of the fish in many ways, they have limitations in that they provide the fish with a rather predictable and constant habitat. The present study illustrates that under these constant conditions, the behaviour of fish in their natural environment may not be truly represented. Under constant conditions hierarchies were formed among groups of four brown trout, Salmo trutta, and the dominant fish displayed physiological advantages. However, when an environmental perturbation of increased water flow, simulating a spate, was imposed, the social behaviour of the fish was altered and the physiological advantages of dominance were lost. Clearly, environmental changes affect the behaviour, and consequently the physiology, of salmonid fish, therefore the importance of taking environmental disturbances into consideration in studies of salmonid behaviour should not be underestimated.

L'établissement de hiérarchies de dominance au sein des groupes de salmonidés a été bien étudié et les aquariums aménagés dans les cours d'eau sont souvent utilisés pour recréer des conditions environnementales appropriées à l'étude de cet aspect du comportement. Bien que ces aquariums simulent le milieu naturel à bien des égards, ils ont une utilité limitée en ce qu'ils créent un habitat relativement prévisible et constant. Nous démontrons ici que, dans ces conditions constantes, le comportement des poissons dans leur environnement naturel n'est pas vraiment représenté fidèlement. Dans des conditions constantes, au sein de groupes de quatre truites brunes, Salmo trutta, des hiérarchies s'établissent et le poisson dominant a des avantages physiologiques apparents. Cependant, à l'avènement d'une augmentation du débit de l'eau, une perturbation écologique simulant une crue, le comportement social des salmonidés se trouve modifié et les avantages physiologiques de la dominance sont perdus. Il est donc évident que les perturbations écologiques affectent le comportement et, conséquemment la physiologie des salmonidés; il ne faut donc pas sous-estimer l'importance des perturbations du milieu lors d'études du comportement des salmonidés.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2002

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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