The formation of social groups is an adaptive behaviour that can provide protection from predators, improve foraging and facilitate social learning. However, the costs of proximity can include competition for resources, aggression and kleptoparasitism meaning that the decision whether to interact represents a trade-off. Here we show that zebrafish harbouring a mutation in endothelin receptor aa (ednraa) form less cohesive shoals than wild-types. ednraa −/− mutants exhibit heightened aggression and decreased whole-body cortisol levels suggesting that they are dominant. These behavioural changes correlate with a reduction of parvocellular arginine vasopressin (AVP)-positive neurons in the preoptic area, an increase in the size of magnocellular AVP neurons and a higher concentration of 5-HT and dopamine in the brain. Manipulation of AVP or 5-HT signalling can rescue the shoaling phenotype of ednraa −/− providing an insight into how the brain controls social interactions.
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