Behaviour 2019
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Degree of behavioral plasticity across sites is linked to static differences in morphology and physiology
Piyumika S. Suriyampola1, Jaime J. Zúñiga-Vega2, Nishad Jayasundera3, Jennifer Flores1, Melissa Lopez1, Anuradha Bhat4, Emilia P. Martins1. 1Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States; 2Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico City, Mexico; 3Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States; 4Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Organisms adjust behavioral responses to keep up with environmental variability. The degree to which they display behavioral plasticity can be shaped by physiological and morphological traits that are intricately linked to their ecological features. Using wild-caught zebrafish (Danio rerio), here we ask if animals inhabiting variable environments display higher degree of behavioral plasticity. We also tested if static differences in sensory, metabolic, and morphological traits explain the varying degree of plasticity. We found that river fish were more plastic in their response to changes in water flow compared to fish from lakes. River fish also displayed weak rheotaxis, maintained low oxygen demands, and possessed less streamlined bodies than did lake zebrafish. We confirm that the higher degree of behavioral plasticity occurs in highly variable habitats and suggest that the generalization of metabolic and morphological traits may have allowed river fish to utilize a wider range of flow conditions at low cost. These findings reveal the complexity of underlying mechanisms of behavioral plasticity and provide insight into how animals keep up with environmental variability.