Stress coping style predicts aggression and social dominance in rainbow trout

Øyvind Øverli, Wayne J. Korzan, Erik Höglund, Svante Winberg, Herbert Bollig, Michael Watt, Gina L. Forster, Bruce A. Barton, Elisabeth Øverli, Kenneth J. Renner, Cliff H. Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


Social stress is frequently used as a model for studying the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying stress-induced behavioral inhibition, depression, and fear conditioning. It has previously been shown that social subordination may result in increased glucocorticoid release and changes in brain signaling systems. However, it is still an open question which neuroendocrine and behavioral differences are causes, and which are consequences of social status. Using juvenile rainbow trout of similar size and with no apparent differences in social history, we demonstrate that the ability to win fights for social dominance can be predicted from the duration of a behavioral response to stress, in this case appetite inhibition after transfer to a new environment. Moreover, stress responsiveness in terms of confinement-induced changes in plasma cortisol was negatively correlated to aggressive behavior. Fish that exhibited lower cortisol responses to a standardized confinement test were markedly more aggressive when being placed in a dominant social position later in the study. These findings support the view that distinct behavioral-physiological stress coping styles are present in teleost fish, and these coping characteristics influence both social rank and levels of aggression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-241
Number of pages7
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Coping style
  • Cortisol
  • Dominance
  • Hierarchy
  • Stress response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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