The spatial learning skills of high and low stress juvenile mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus) were tested in a dichotomous choice apparatus. Groups of fish were formed based on background blood cortisol levels and required to learn the location of a food reward hidden in one of two compartments. Low stress fish characterised by low background levels of the stress hormone cortisol had higher activity levels and entered both rewarded and unrewarded rooms frequently. Within the first week of exposure, however, their preference for the rewarded room increased, indicative of learning. Fish that had high background levels of cortisol, in contrast, showed low levels of activity but when they chose between the two rooms they chose the rewarded room most often but showed less improvement over time. After 12 days in the apparatus, both low and high stress fish had similar ratios of rewarded vs unrewarded room entrances. Our results suggest that proactive coping styles may increase exposure to novel contexts and thus favour faster learning but at the cost of reduced initial accuracy.
Raoult V, Trompf L, Williamson JE, Brown C. 2017. Stress profile influences learning approach in a marine fish. PeerJ 5:e3445 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3445