Behavioral plasticity in response to environmental manipulation among zebrafish (Danio rerio) populations

Anuradha Bhat, Melissa M. Greulich, Emília P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Plastic responses can have adaptive significance for organisms occurring in unpredictable environments, migratory species and organisms occupying novel environments. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) occur in a wide range of habitats and environments that fluctuate frequently across seasons and habitats. We expect wild populations of fish to be behaviorally more flexible than fish reared in conventional laboratory and hatchery environments. We measured three behavioral traits among 2 wild (U and PN) and 1 laboratory bred (SH) zebrafish populations in four environments differing in water flow and vegetation regimes. We found that the degree of plasticity varied with the type of behavior and also among populations. In general, vegetation increased aggression and water flow decreased latency to feed after a disturbance, but the patterns were population dependent. For example, while wild U fish fed more readily after a disturbance in vegetated and/or flowing habitats, fish from the wild PN population and lab-reared SH strain showed little variation in foraging across different environmental conditions. Zebrafish from all the three populations were more aggressive when tested in an arena with vegetation. In contrast, while there was an inter-population difference in shoaling distances, variation in shoaling distance across environmental conditions within populations was not significant. These results suggest that both foraging and aggression in zebrafish are more plastic and influenced by immediate context than is shoaling distance, which may have a stronger genetic basis. Our findings point to different underlying mechanisms influencing the expression of these traits and warrants further investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0125097
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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