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Zebrafish. 2010 Mar;7(1):109-17. doi: 10.1089/zeb.2009.0618.

Dominance hierarchies in zebrafish (Danio rerio) and their relationship with reproductive success.

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School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Hatherly Laboratories, Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom.


The zebrafish has considerable potential for use as a model in the study of behavior in social systems, particularly dominance hierarchies, which are widespread in nature and can affect the lifelong success of individuals. There is, however, a paucity of information relating to the characterization of social groups and significance of dominance hierarchies in the zebrafish model. This study set out to bridge this knowledge gap and better characterize dominance and its implications for reproductive success in both male and female zebrafish in colonies comprising of two males and two females. Analyses of four aggressive behaviors (chase, bite, repel, spar) were conducted twice daily over a 5-day period, and fertilized eggs were collected for parentage analyses using DNA microsatellite markers. Dominant-subordinate relationships occurred both between males and between females, and in both sexes, dominance was associated with a greater body size and higher levels of aggression. During the spawning period, dominant females were, however, less aggressive toward their subordinates than dominant males to their subordinates. Aggressive behaviors employed for maintaining dominance did not differ between the sexes, but in females, in contrast with males, the level of aggression directed toward the subordinate fish increased over the study period. Overall, dominance resulted in a greater total reproductive success in males but not in females; however, dominant females sired more offspring with the dominant male. The findings illustrate that energy invested in dominance behavior appears beneficial for both sexes in zebrafish.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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