Survival of the shyest? Study identifies how personality influences rainbow trout's memory window

Oct 22, 2012

A fish's personality can influence how it responds to, and learns from threats, according to a new study by Professor Grant Brown from Concordia University in Canada and his colleagues. Their work, looking at how personality influences a fish's memory of a predator threat, shows that bold trout forget predator odor, and hence potentially predator threat, quicker than shy trout. The research is published online in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

A prey's ability to balance the conflicting demands of avoiding predators and foraging, defending territories and/or mating depends on the availability of reliable information regarding predator threats. As predators can be present in different locations and at different times, learning and retaining information about a predator threat, and being able to recall it at a later stage, is key to better assess relevant threats in the future.

Brown and team studied how long juvenile retained information they had previously learned about a predator, and whether the duration of retention was influenced by the fish's personality i.e. whether they were 'shy' or 'bold'.

The trout were classified as either shy or bold depending on how quickly they escaped from test tanks once a movable barrier was removed. Those who moved quickly displayed risk-taking behavior - the bold fish; those who moved more cautiously were avoiding risk - the shy fish.

The researchers conditioned the individual trout to recognize the odor of pumpkinseed, a and trout predator. They then tested whether they still recognised the odor, both 24 hours and eight days later.

They found that the fish's personality shaped how long the information was retained. Although there was no difference in the fish's during the conditioning phase or after 24 hours, shy trout continued to demonstrate a learned response to pumpkinseed odor eight days later, while bold trout did not. These results suggest that the behavioral tactic employed at the time of conditioning i.e. risk-taking or risk-avoiding, influences the memory window of acquired information.

Explore further: Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

More information: Brown GE et al (2012). Retention of acquired predator recognition among shy versus bold juvenile rainbow trout. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology; DOI 10.1007/s00265-012-1422-4

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Shy trout size it up

Dec 06, 2010

Personality is not just a feature unique to humans and pets. Scientists at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) have revealed that also brown trout have individual characters and show different personalities.

To trust or not to trust your friends

Jan 30, 2007

Sometimes it is better to follow the advice of others rather than your own mind even though you seem to have things under control. Not only humans but also fish follow this doctrine as shown by ecologists Jörgen Johnsson ...

Salmon can sniff out predators

Sep 13, 2011

Salmon know when their most common predator is around, because they can tell that it's eaten salmon before, new research shows. Young fish can do this too, even if they've never encountered that particular ...

Recommended for you

Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —An invasive weed poses a serious and frightening threat to farming families in Ethiopia, but scientists from a Virginia Tech-led program have unleashed a new weapon in the fight against hunger: ...

New tool to assess noise impact on marine mammals

2 hours ago

A new desktop tool which will allow offshore renewable energy developers to assess the likely impacts of their projects on marine mammal populations has been developed by scientists at the University of St ...

Of bees, mites, and viruses

20 hours ago

Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates worldwide. A variety of factors have been proposed to explain their decline, but the exact cause—and how bees can be saved—remains unclear. An article published on August ...

User comments : 0