Differences in stress reactivity between zebrafish with alternative stress coping styles

Ryan Y. Wong, Jeffrey French, Jacalyn B. Russ

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Animals experience stress in a variety of contexts and the behavioural and neuroendocrine responses to stress can vary among conspecifics. The responses across stressors often covary within an individual and are consistently different between individuals, which represent distinct stress coping styles (e.g. proactive and reactive). While studies have identified differences in peak glucocorticoid levels, less is known about how cortisol levels differ between stress coping styles at other time points of the glucocorticoid stress response. Here we quantified whole-body cortisol levels and stress-related behaviours (e.g. depth preference, movement) at time points representing the rise and recovery periods of the stress response in zebrafish lines selectively bred to display the proactive and reactive coping style. We found that cortisol levels and stress behaviours are significantly different between the lines, sexes and time points. Further, individuals from the reactive line showed significantly higher cortisol levels during the rising phase of the stress response compared with those from the proactive line. We also observed a significant correlation between individual variation of cortisol levels and depth preference but only in the reactive line. Our results show that differences in cortisol levels between the alternative stress coping styles extend to the rising phase of the endocrine stress response and that cortisol levels may explain variation in depth preferences in the reactive line. Differences in the timing and duration of cortisol levels may influence immediate behavioural displays and longer lasting neuromolecular mechanisms that modulate future responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number181797
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Coping style
  • Cortisol
  • Danio rerio
  • Proactive
  • Reactive
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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