Swimming With Hormones

Ancient Urges That Drive the Social Decisions

Researchers Unravel Ancient Urges That Drive the Social
Decisions of Fish.

Researchers have discovered that a form of oxytocin - the hormone responsible for making humans fall in love - has a similar effect on fish, suggesting it is a key regulator of social behavior that has evolved and endured since ancient times. The findings, published in the latest edition of the journal Animal Behavior, help answer an important evolutionary question: why do some species develop complex social behaviors while others spend much of their lives alone? "We know how this hormone affects humans," explains Adam Reddon, lead researcher and a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior at McMaster University. "It is related to love, monogamy, even risky behavior, but much less is known about its effects on fish." Specifically, researchers examined the cichlid fish Neolamprologus pulcher, a highly social species found in Lake Tanganyika in Africa. These cichlids are unusual because they form permanent hierarchical social groups made up of a dominant breeding pair and many helpers that look after the young and defend their territory. "We already knew that this class of neuropeptides are ancient and are found in nearly all vertebrate groups," says Sigal Balshine, a professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior.

 

"What is especially exciting about these findings, is that they bolster the idea that function of these hormones, as modulators of social behavior, has also been conserved."

 

Kemo D. 7

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