Real or fake? Natural and artificial social stimuli elicit divergent behavioural and neural responses in mangrove rivulus, Kryptolebias marmoratus

Proc Biol Sci. 2018 Nov 14;285(1891):20181610. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1610.


Understanding how the brain processes social information and generates adaptive behavioural responses is a major goal in neuroscience. We examined behaviour and neural activity patterns in socially relevant brain nuclei of hermaphroditic mangrove rivulus fish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) provided with different types of social stimuli: stationary model opponent, regular mirror, non-reversing mirror and live opponent. We found that: (i) individuals faced with a regular mirror were less willing to interact with, delivered fewer attacks towards and switched their orientation relative to the opponent more frequently than fish exposed to a non-reversing mirror image or live opponent; (ii) fighting with a regular mirror image caused higher expression of immediate-early genes (IEGs: egr-1 and c-Fos) in the teleost homologues of the basolateral amygdala and hippocampus, but lower IEG expression in the preoptic area, than fighting with a non-reversing mirror image or live opponent; (iii) stationary models elicited the least behavioural and IEG responses among the four stimuli; and (iv) the non-reversing mirror image and live opponent drove similar behavioural and neurobiological responses. These results suggest that the various stimuli provide different types of information related to conspecific recognition in the context of aggressive contests, which ultimately drive different neurobiological responses.

Keywords: Kryptolebias marmoratus; immediate early gene; mirror-image stimulation; non-reversing mirror; social information; stationary model test.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cyprinodontiformes / physiology*
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Preoptic Area / metabolism

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.mr2687q
  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4288637