Aggressive encounters lead to negative affective state in fish

Leia Rogers, Ellie Sales, Shokoofeh Shamsi, R. Keller Kopf, Rafael Freire

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Animals show various behavioural, neural and physiological changes in response to losing aggressive encounters. Here, we investigated affective state, which are emotion-like processes influenced by positive or negative experiences, in a territorial fish following aggressive encounters and explore links to bold/shy behavioural traits. Eighteen 15-month old Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) received three tests in order to determine bold/shy behavioural traits then underwent a typical go/no-go judgement bias (JB) test. The JB apparatus had five adjacent chambers with access provided by a sliding door and fish underwent a training procedure to enter a chamber at one end of the apparatus to receive a food reward but were chased using a net if they entered the chamber at the opposite end. Only one third (N = 6) of fish successfully completed the training procedure (trained fish), and the remaining 12 fish failed to reach the learning criterion (untrained fish). Trained fish housed with a larger aggressive Murray cod for 24 h were significantly less likely to enter intermediate chambers during probe tests compared to control fish, demonstrating a pessimistic response. Trained fish showed "bolder" responses in emergence and conspecific inspection tests than untrained fish, suggesting that shyer individuals were less able to apply a learned behaviour in a novel environment. Our limited sample was biased towards bold individuals but supports the hypothesis that losing an aggressive encounter leads to pessimistic decision- making.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0231330
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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