Exposure of ova to cortisol pre-fertilisation affects subsequent behaviour and physiology of brown trout

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Even before fertilisation, exposure of ova to high levels of stress corticosteroids can have significant effects on offspring in a variety of animals. In fish, high levels of cortisol in ovarian fluid can elicit morphological changes and reduce offspring survival. Whether there are other more subtle effects, including behavioural effects, of exposure to cortisol pre-fertilisation in fish is unclear. Here I demonstrate that a brief (3 h) exposure of brown trout eggs to a physiologically relevant (similar to 500 mu g l(-1)) concentration of cortisol pre-fertilisation resulted in changes to developing offspring. Embryos exposed to cortisol pre-fertilisation displayed elevated oxygen consumption and ammonia excretion rates during development. After hatch, in contrast to the effects of cortisol exposure in juvenile fish, fish exposed to cortisol as eggs were more aggressive than control individuals and responded differently within a maze system. Thus, a transient exposure to corticosteroids in unfertilised eggs results in both physiological and behavioural alterations in fish.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-439
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Competition
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Maze test
  • Nitrogen excretion
  • Salmonid

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