Nonapeptide influences on social behaviour: effects of vasotocin and isotocin on shoaling and interaction in zebrafish

in Behaviour
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Nonapeptides are important regulators of social behaviour across vertebrate taxa. While their role in simple grouping behaviour has been explored in estrildid finches, other taxa are understudied, prompting us to investigate nonapeptide influences on shoaling behaviour in zebrafish. Subjects received injections of isotocin, an isotocin antagonist, vasotocin, a vasotocin antagonist, or saline, followed by a test of grouping behaviour. Vasotocin decreased social interaction with the shoal. Unexpectedly, the vasotocin antagonist also reduced social interaction with the shoal, as well as general shoaling behaviour. Isotocin and its antagonist had minimal effects on grouping behaviours. These results suggest social interaction and shoaling are discrete aspects of sociality differentially influenced by vasotocin, although we cannot discount possible anxiogenic effects of vasotocin. Contrasting these results with studies in other systems demonstrates that each nonapeptide’s role in social behaviour varies across taxa, and cautions against a simplistic characterisation of nonapeptides as prosocial regulators of behaviour.

Nonapeptide influences on social behaviour: effects of vasotocin and isotocin on shoaling and interaction in zebrafish

in Behaviour



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    Schematic overview of the experimental apparatus, plan view. Lines were drawn on the outside of a large aquarium (150 × 50 cm) marking a neutral zone (N) containing a pump (p), a shoaling zone (S) and a no-shoal zone (NS), the latter two dependant on the location of a stimulus shoal. The subject was released from a transparent cylinder (c) after acclimatisation and its behaviour was recorded for 10 min. A conspecific shoal was placed at random on one side of the tank behind a transparent solid partition (b) in a confined zone (f). Interaction was recorded when subjects were both in the shoaling zone (S) and swimming head first against the partition (b).

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    Mean ± SE values for each treatment for (A) time spent in the shoaling zone, (B) time spent interacting with the shoal and (C) time spent interacting as a proportion of time spent shoaling for each treatment group. p0.05, ∗∗p0.01, ∗∗∗p0.001.

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    Mean ± SE values for each treatment for (A) latency to enter the shoaling zone and (B) latency to interact at the partition with the stimulus shoal. §p0.1, p0.05, ∗∗p0.01.

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    Mean ± SE number of switches made between the shoaling, neutral and no-shoal zones for each treatment. p0.05, ∗∗p0.01, NS: p0.1.


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