Chronic exposure to stressors has a persistent effect on feeding behaviour but not cortisol levels in sticklebacks

Magierecka, A., Lind, Å. J., Aristeidou, A., Sloman, K. A. and Metcalfe, N. B. (2021) Chronic exposure to stressors has a persistent effect on feeding behaviour but not cortisol levels in sticklebacks. Animal Behaviour, 181, pp. 71-81. (doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2021.08.028)

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Abstract

Animals are often exposed to changes in their environment that may be perceived as stressful, leading to an acute stress response, but to which they can eventually habituate. However, if habituation is prevented, for example due to the stressors being diverse and unpredictable in the timing and sequence of their appearance, a state of chronic stress may ensue. Organisms exposed to chronic stressors may show altered patterns of glucocorticoid hormone synthesis as well as changes in behaviour (e.g. activity and feeding), but the exact phenotypic effects of chronically stressful environments remain poorly understood. In this study, we exposed adult three-spined sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus, to an unpredictable chronic stress protocol over a period of 67 days and measured their response in terms of water-borne cortisol levels and behavioural patterns. We quantified activity and feeding behaviour in two contexts: (1) when the stressors were applied and (2) during the resting period between stressors. We did not observe a significant cortisol elevation following a period of chronic exposure nor any change in cortisol levels in response to an acute stressor. The exposure of fish to chronic stressors led to a decline in latency to feed during the resting periods, indicative of an anticipation of future stressors. We observed an increase in activity levels of the stress-exposed fish, but only during the presentation of the stressors. Organismal response to protracted exposure to stressors is energetically expensive; thus, our results may indicate a trade-off between energy-demanding activities in fish subjected to a chronically unpredictable environment.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Metcalfe, Professor Neil and Magierecka, Ms Agnieszka
Authors: Magierecka, A., Lind, Å. J., Aristeidou, A., Sloman, K. A., and Metcalfe, N. B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Animal Behaviour
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0003-3472
ISSN (Online):1095-8282
Published Online:27 September 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
First Published:First published in Animal Behaviour 181: 71-81
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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