Alvarado, M. V., Felip, A., Espigares, F. et al. 2023. Unexpected appetitive events promote positive affective state in juvenile European sea bass. Scientific Reports 13(1), 22064.

Some animal species exhibit considerable physiological and behavioural alterations in response to captivity. It has been hypothesized, but rarely tested, that such changes reflect a negative affective state that is associated to this specific context. In the last years, judgement bias measures have emerged as reliable indicators of animal affective state, under the assumption that individuals in a negative affective state are more likely to evaluate ambiguous stimuli as negative and display therefore pessimistic behaviours. Here, we have developed a judgement bias task for juvenile European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) aiming to measure optimism/pessimism in this marine species, which have previously been reported to show important dysregulations in captive settings. Our results show that juvenile sea bass exhibit a considerable bias towards pessimistic behaviours in laboratory settings. Furthermore, juveniles that received an unexpected positive event during the judgement bias test displayed more optimistic responses toward ambiguous stimuli as compared to control fish, indicating a positive change in their affective state induced by the appetitive experience. These results reveal a direct interaction of the internal affective state with decision-making processing under ambiguity in juvenile European sea bass, highlighting therefore the potential of judgement bias tests as a tool for the advancement and improvement of our understanding of welfare in finfish aquaculture.

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