Zebrafish Social Behavior in the Wild

Piyumika S. Suriyampola, Delia S. Shelton, Rohitashva Shukla, Tamal Roy, Anuradha Bhat, Emilia P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Wild zebrafish exhibit a wide range of behavior. We found abundant wild zebrafish in flowing rivers and still water, in large, tightly-knit groups of hundreds of individuals, as well as in small, loose shoals. In two still-water populations, zebrafish were quite small in body size, common, and in tight groups of up to 22 fish. As in earlier laboratory studies, these zebrafish exhibited very low levels of aggression. In slowly flowing water in central India, zebrafish were relatively rare and gathered in small shoals (4-12 fish), often with other small fish, such as Rasbora daniconius. These stream zebrafish were larger in body size (27 mm TL) and much more aggressive than those in still water. In a second river population with much faster flowing water, zebrafish were abundant and again relatively large (21 mm TL). These zebrafish occurred in very large (up to 300 individuals) and tightly-knit (nearest-neighbor distances up to 21 mm) groups that exhibited collective rheotaxis and almost no aggression. This remarkable variation in social behavior of wild zebrafish offers an opportunity for future studies of behavioral genetics, development, and neuroscience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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