HPI reactivity does not reflect changes in personality among trout introduced to bold or shy social groups

in Behaviour
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Physiological stress responses often correlate with personalities (e.g., boldness). However, this relationship can become decoupled, although the mechanisms underlying changes in this relationship are poorly understood. Here we quantify (1) how an individual’s boldness (response to novel objects) in rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, changes in response to interactions with a population of either bold or shy conspecifics and we (2) measured associated post-stress cortisol levels. Initially-bold trout became shyer regardless of group composition, whereas shy trout remained shy demonstrating that bold individuals are more plastic. Stress-induced plasma cortisol reflected the original personality of fish but not the personality induced by the treatment, irrespective of population personality. Change in boldness of bold trout may indicate preference towards initially subordinate behaviour when joining a new population. However, here we provide further evidence that behavioural and physiological parameters of coping styles may become uncoupled whereby behavioural changes are not correlated with stress responsiveness.



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  • Schematic of the experimental procedure, indicating the experimental set-up and the time-scale of experiments. Dotted lines indicate dividers within the Population Tanks which housed two fish populations simultaneously (see Section 2.3 for details).

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  • Behaviour of rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, before (white boxes) and after (grey boxes) a week spent with a population of either bold or shy trout (where boldness was measured as latency to approach within 5 cm of a novel object, and where bold fish approached in <180 s and shy fish approached in >300 s or not at all). Figures indicate different measures of behaviour: (a) latency to approach to within 5 cm of a novel object (s) for bold and shy focal fish; (b) duration of passive behaviour (s) of bold and shy focal fish; and frequency of changing between passive and active behaviour (see text for details) between (c) bold and shy focal fish and (d) comparisons of all focal fish compared between populations. For all boxes: line = median, box = interquartile range, whiskers indicate extent of data < 1.5 × IQR, dots = outliers (greater than 1.5 × IQR outside the box).

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  • Mean (± SE) plasma cortisol concentrations in bold (white) and shy (grey) rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, 15 min after an emersion stress. Individual trout were placed into a group of either nine bold (Bold Population) or nine shy conspecifics (Shy Population) for one week before sampling. Groups which do not share a common lower case letter were significantly different (p<0.05). N=5,8 for bold trout and N=11,10 for shy trout in a bold and shy population respectively.

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  • Mean (± SE) specific growth rate (G) of bold (white) and shy (grey) rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, placed for one week into a population of 9 bold or shy trout. n=5,8 for bold trout and n=10,10 for shy trout in a bold and shy population, respectively.

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