Prentice, P. M., Houslay, T. M., Wilson, A. J. 2022. Exploiting animal personality to reduce chronic stress in captive fish populations. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 9, 1046205.
Chronic stress is a major source of welfare problems in many captive populations, including fishes. While we have long known that chronic stress effects arise from maladaptive expression of acute stress response pathways, predicting where and when problems will arise is difficult. Here we highlight how insights from animal personality research could be useful in this regard. Since behavior is the first line of organismal defense when challenged by a stressor, assays of shy-bold type personality variation can provide information about individual stress response that is expected to predict susceptibility to chronic stress. Moreover, recent demonstrations that among-individual differences in stress-related physiology and behaviors are underpinned by genetic factors means that selection on behavioral biomarkers could offer a route to genetic improvement of welfare outcomes in captive fish stocks. Here we review the evidence in support of this proposition, identify remaining empirical gaps in our understanding, and set out appropriate criteria to guide development of biomarkers. The article is largely prospective: fundamental research into fish personality shows how behavioral biomarkers could be used to achieve welfare gains in captive fish populations. However, translating potential to actual gains will require an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the expertise and viewpoints of researchers working across animal behavior, genetics, and welfare science.