Carbonara, P., Dioguardi, M., Cammarata, M. et al. 2019. Basic knowledge of social hierarchies and physiological profile of reared sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax (L.). PLoS ONE 14(1), e0208688.

The effects of social hierarchies (dominant/subordinate individuals), such as aggressiveness, feeding order, and territoriality, are some of the characteristics used for describing fish behaviour. Social hierarchy patterns are still poorly understood in European-reared sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax). In this work, we examine the social interactions among captive fish integrating behavioural and physiological profiles. Groups of three fish with EMG (electromyogram) radio transmitters were monitored for two weeks via video recording. Plasma levels of cortisol, glucose, lactate and lysozyme as well as haematological parameters such as haemoglobin, haematocrit and RBCC (red blood cell count) were measured at the beginning and end of the experiments. Behaviour and muscle activity were monitored daily. The results highlighted that the social hierarchic order was established after one to two days, and it was maintained throughout the experimental period. Dominant and subordinate fish (ß and γ) showed significant differences in muscle activity, hormonal profile (cortisol), aspecific immunity (lysozyme), carbohydrate metabolism (lactate) and behavioural patterns (food order and aggressiveness). This holistic approach helps to provide insights into the physiological status of the subordinate (ß and γ) and dominant individuals. These data have wide implications for aquaculture practice.

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