Reversibility of multimodal shift: Zebrafish shift to olfactory cues when the visual environment changes

Piyumika S. Suriyampola, Melissa Lopez, Brontë E. Ellsworth, Emília P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Animals can shift their reliance on different sensory modalities in response to environmental conditions, and knowing the degree to which traits are reversible may help us to predict their chances of survival in a changing environment. Here, using adult zebrafish (Danio rerio), we found that 6 weeks in different light environments alone were sufficient to shift whether fish approached visual or chemical cues first, and that a subsequent reversal of lighting conditions also reversed their sensory preferences. In addition, we measured simple behavioral responses to sensory stimuli presented alone, and found that zebrafish housed in dim light for 6 weeks responded weakly to an optomotor assay, but strongly to an olfactory cue, whereas fish experiencing bright light for 6 weeks responded strongly to the visual optomotor stimulus and weakly in an olfactory assay. Visual and olfactory responses were equally reversible, and shifted to the opposite pattern when we reversed lighting conditions for 6 weeks. In contrast, we did not find a change in activity level, suggesting that changes in multiple sensory modalities can buffer animals from changes in more complex forms of behavior. This reversal of sensory response provides insight into how animals may use sensory shifts to keep up with environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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