Does the presence of novel vs. familiar companions affect the social buffering response in Danio rerio?

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Florida Southern College
Social buffering is a phenomenon observed in social animals where the presence of a member from the same species alleviates the stress response by reducing the amount of stress an animal experiences, helping them to recover faster. Social buffering has been observed across vertebrate taxa, from primates, to birds, to fish. Zebrafish, Danio rerio, are a shoaling species –group living fish that form social bonds with other members. To test how familiarity within a group plays a role in social buffering, I exposed 18 zebrafish to a stressor in three treatments: 1) in pairs of new companions; 2) individually; and 3) in pairs where the fish are familiar with each other. After administering the stressor, chasing with a net, I observed the behavior of the fish for 20 minutes and scored four stress-related behaviors: erratic swimming, freezing, reduced exploration, and shoaling cohesion. The isolation treatment exhibited increased erratic movements and overall activity. The novel and familiar treatments did not significantly differ in any of the behaviors. The presence of conspecifics, whether or not they are familiar, seem to alleviate stress-related behaviors.
Honors Thesis Spring 2022
Zebra danio, Social behavior in animals