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Front Behav Neurosci. 2012 Nov 19;6:77. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00077. eCollection 2012.

Differential serotonergic modulation of two types of aggression in weakly electric fish.

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Unidad Bases Neurales de la Conducta, Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable Montevideo, Uruguay.


Agonistic aggression has provided an excellent framework to study how conserved circuits and neurochemical mediators control species-specific and context-dependent behavior. The principal inhibitory control upon aggression is serotonin (5-HT) dependent, and the activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors is involved in its action. To address whether the serotonergic system differentially regulates different types of aggression, we used two species of weakly electric fish: the solitary Gymnotus omarorum and the gregarious Brachyhypopomus gauderio, which display distinctive types of aggression as part of each species' natural behavioral repertoire. We found that in the reproduction-related aggression displayed by B. gauderio after conflict resolution, the serotonergic activity follows the classic pattern in which subordinates exhibit higher 5-HT levels than controls. After the territorial aggression displayed by G. omarorum, however, both dominants and subordinates show lower 5-HT levels than controls, indicating a different response of the serotonergic system. Further, we found interspecific differences in basal serotonin turnover and in the dynamic profile of the changes in 5-HT levels from pre-contest to post-contest. Finally, we found the expected reduction of aggression and outcome shift in the territorial aggression of G. omarorum after 8-OH-DPAT (5-HT(1A) receptor agonist) administration, but no effect in the reproduction-related aggression of B. gauderio. Our results demonstrate the differential participation of the serotonergic system in the modulation of two types of aggression that we speculate may be a general strategy of the neuroendocrine control of aggression across vertebrates.


5-HT; Brachyhypopomus gauderio; Gymnotus omarorum; agonistic behavior; reproduction-related aggression; territorial aggression

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