Aggression and vasotocin are associated with dominant-subordinate relationships in zebrafish

Behavioural Brain Research
Earl T LarsonRichard H Melloni


Agonistic interactions are present throughout the animal kingdom as well as in humans. In this report, we present a model system to study neurological correlates of dominant-subordinate relationships. Zebrafish, Danio rerio, has been used as a model system for developmental biology for decades. We propose here that it is also an excellent model for studying social behavior. Adult male zebrafish were separated for 5 days and then pairs were formed and allowed to interact for 5 days. Under these conditions, aggression is prevalent and dominant-subordinate relationships are quickly established. Dominant behavior is characterized by a repeated pattern of chasing and biting, whereas subordinates engage in retreats. By day 5, the dominant-subordinate relationship was firmly established and there were differences in behavior over time. Chases, bites and retreats were all less frequent on day 5 of the social interaction than on day 1. Arginine vasotocin is the teleostean homologue of arginine vasopressin, a neuropeptide whose expression has been linked to aggression and social position in mammals. Immunohistochemistry indicated differences in vasotocin staining between dominant and subordinate individuals. Dominant individuals express ...Continue Reading


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