Physiological effects of dominance hierarchies within groups of brown trout, Salmo trutta, held under simulated natural conditions

K.A. Sloman, K.M. Gilmour, A.C. Taylor, N.B. Metcalfe

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92 Citations (Scopus)


While the existence of dominance hierarchies within natural populations of salmonids is well known, little is known about the physiological consequences of these social interactions. To investigate such physiological effects, replicate groups of four brown trout (Salmo trutta) were held under simulated natural conditions in an artificial stream tank. Behavioural observations allowed the fish to be ranked for dominance. After two weeks, physiological status was assessed through measurements of specific growth rate, condition factor, plasma cortisol and ion concentrations, haematocrit, leucocrit, hepatosomatic index, hepatic glycogen concentration, interrenal cell nuclear area and gill epithelium chloride cell density. Weight gain in the first-ranking (dominant) fish was significantly higher than in the second-ranking fish. In addition, the condition factor of the second-ranking fish decreased over the experimental period while those of the first- and third- ranking fish increased, resulting in significant differences among the three groups. The only other physiological parameter which varied significantly among the ranked fish was chloride cell density, which was significantly higher in the second-ranking fish than in the dominant fish. Cortisol concentrations were low in all fish and did not vary significantly with dominance status. Overall, the least beneficial position, in physiological terms, appears to be the second rank in the dominance hierarchy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalFish Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • chloride cells
  • condition
  • cortisol
  • growth rate
  • salmonid
  • social stress


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