Midttun, H., Øverli, Ø., Tudorache, C. et al. 2022. Non-invasive sampling of water-borne hormones demonstrates individual consistency of the cortisol response to stress in laboratory zebrafish (Danio rerio). Scientific Reports, 12(1) 6278.
Glucocorticoid (GC) stress hormones are well-known for their impact on phenotypic traits ranging from immune function to behaviour and cognition. For that reason, consistent aspects of an individual’s physiological stress response (i.e. GC responsiveness) can predict major elements of life-history trajectory. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) emerge as a promising model to study such consistent trait correlations, including the development of individual stress coping styles, i.e. consistent associations between physiological and behavioral traits. However, consistency in GC responsiveness of this popular animal model remains to be confirmed. Such a study has so far been hampered by the small-bodied nature and insufficient blood volume of this species to provide repeated measurements of circulating GCs. Here, we adopted a technique that allows for repeated, non-invasive sampling of individual zebrafish by quantifying GCs from holding water. Our findings indicate consistency of the magnitude of post-stress GC production over several consecutive stress events in zebrafish. Moreover, water-borne GCs reflect individual variation in GC responsiveness with the strongest consistency seen in males.