Alteration of size perception: serotonin has opposite effects on the aggressiveness of crayfish confronting either a smaller or a larger rival

Abstract : We injected serotonin (5-HT) into adult male crayfish before pairing them with size-matched non-injected competitors, and observed dyadic agonistic interactions. Paradoxically, 5-HT elicited opposite behavioral responses if the injected animal was opposed by a smaller or larger rival: the level of aggressiveness of the injected crayfish was higher when facing a larger rival but lower when facing a smaller rival. Our results indicate that the effects of 5-HT on aggressiveness are dependent on the perception of the relative size difference of the opponent. In both cases, however, 5-HT significantly delayed the decision to retreat. We conclude that 5-HT does not primarily act on aggressiveness but rather on the brain centers that integrate risk assessment and/or decision making, which then modulate the aggressive response. Our findings support a reinterpretation of the role of 5-HT in crustacean agonistic behavior that may be of interest for studies of other animals.
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Julien Bacqué-Cazenave, Daniel Cattaert, Jean Delbecque, Pascal Fossat. Alteration of size perception: serotonin has opposite effects on the aggressiveness of crayfish confronting either a smaller or a larger rival. Journal of Experimental Biology, Cambridge University Press, 2018, 221 (12), pp.jeb177840. ⟨10.1242/jeb.177840⟩. ⟨hal-02333018⟩

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