Changes in brain arginine vasotocin, isotocin, plasma 11-ketotestosterone and cortisol in round goby, Neogobius melanostomus, males subjected to overcrowding stress during the breeding season
In natural spawning grounds, breeding round goby, Neogobius melanostomus, males are exposed to various social stimuli, including high density of same-sex competitors and separation from females. We hypothesize that breeding males subjected to overcrowding in the wild experience high stress that affects their socio-sexual behavior and their relationships among conspecifics. We designed an experiment to mimic natural stimulation when highly aggregated breeding males are subjected to same-sex opponents. Males were sampled sequentially from experimental tank stocked at decreasing fish densities of 15 fish/m2, 9 fish/m2 and 4 fish/m2. We studied the effects of overcrowding on male behavior and selected hormones, brain arginine vasotocin (AVT) and isotocin (IT) and plasma 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) and cortisol as these are known to play roles in reproduction and related social interactions. The highest brain AVT and plasma cortisol levels were measured in non-aggressive males kept in the overcrowded group of 15 fish/m2. IT level was elevated in fish kept at the lower density of 9 fish/m2, and at which the males began to display territoriality and aggression. The plasma level of 11-KT was similar in all the males. Brain AVT and IT and plasma cortisol along with behavioral observations can be applied as species-specific indicators of the well-being of round goby males.