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To investigate the role of certain neurohormones in agonistic behaviour, fights were staged between pairs of size-matched male shore crabs Carcinus maenas, and blood samples were taken immediately after the contests had been resolved. Samples were also taken from these crabs at rest (before and after fighting) and after walking on a treadmill. A control group of crabs also had samples taken on each experimental day. Concentrations of tyramine, dopamine, octopamine, serotonin (5-HT) and norepinephrine were determined in each blood sample using a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC-MS) system. Norepinephrine was not detectable in any of the samples, but the standards were recovered. Tyramine values were not significantly different between the control group and the fought group, so tyramine does not appear to be important in agonistic behaviour. A comparison between the control and fought groups shows that fighting had an effect on the concentrations of octopamine, dopamine and 5-HT, but exercise only had an effect on octopamine levels, which showed a reduction from resting values in both winners and losers. Resting and post-fight concentrations of octopamine, dopamine and 5-HT were higher in winners than in losers. 5-HT concentration increased in the blood of fought crabs from resting values, whereas dopamine concentration decreased. In winners, octopamine concentrations decreased from resting values, but in losers octopamine levels increased from resting concentrations. The escalatory behaviour or intensity of fighting performed by winners and losers was related to dopamine levels but not to those of octopamine or 5-HT. Therefore, there appears to be a link between relative concentrations of these three amines (dopamine, octopamine and 5-HT) and fighting ability; the effects are not simply a result of activity. The better competitors have higher concentrations of these three amines at rest and after fighting.


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