Size‑selective mortality fosters ontogenetic changes in collective risk‑taking behaviour in zebrafish, Danio rerio


Size-selective mortality is common in fish populations and can operate either in a positive size-selective fashion by harvesting larger-than-average fish or be negatively size-selective by harvesting smaller-than-average fish. Through various mechanisms (like genetic correlations among behaviour and life-history traits or direct selection on behaviour co-varying with growth rate or size-at-maturation), size-selection can result in evolutionary changes in behavioural traits. Theory suggests that both positive and negative size-selection without additional selection on behaviour favours boldness, while evolution of shyness is possible if the largest fish are harvested. Here we examined the impact of size-selective mortality on collective boldness across ontogeny using three experimental lines of zebrafish (Danio rerio) generated through positive (large-harvested), negative (small-harvested) and random (control line) size-selective mortality for five generations and then relaxed selection for 10 generations to examine evolutionarily fixed outcomes. We measured collective risk-taking during feeding (boldness) under simulated aerial predation threat, and across four contexts in presence/absence of a cichlid. Boldness decreased across ontogeny under aerial predation threat, and the small-harvested line was consistently bolder than controls. The large and small-harvested lines showed higher behavioural plasticity as larvae and developed personality earlier compared to the controls. The large-harvested line showed increased variability and plasticity in boldness throughout ontogeny. In the presence of a live predator, fish did not differ in boldness in three contexts compared to the controls, but the large-harvested line showed reduced behavioural plasticity across contexts than controls. Our results confirmed theory by demonstrating that size-selective harvesting evolutionarily alters collective boldness and its variability and plasticity.

Roy, T., Arlinghaus, R. 2022. Size‑selective mortality fosters ontogenetic changes in collective risk‑taking behaviour in zebrafish, Danio rerio. Oecologia, 200, 89-106.

Published : 2022
Appeared in : Oecologia, 200, 89-106