The effects of laboratory housing and spatial enrichment on brain size and metabolic rate in the eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki

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Abstract

It has long been hypothesised that there is a functional correlation between brain size and metabolic rate in vertebrates. The present study tested this hypothesis in wild-caught adult mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki by testing for an intra-specific association between resting metabolic rate (RMR) and brain size while controlling for variation in body size, and through the examination of the effects of spatial enrichment and laboratory housing on body mass-independent measures of brain size and RMR. Controlling for body mass, there was no relationship between brain size and RMR in wild-caught fish. Contrary to predictions, spatial enrichment caused a decrease in mass-independent brain size, highlighting phenotypic plasticity in the adult brain. As expected, after controlling for differences in body size, wild-caught fish had relatively larger brains than fish that had been maintained in the laboratory for a minimum of six weeks, but wild-caught fish also had significantly lower massindependent RMR. This study demonstrates that an organisms' housing environment can cause significant plastic changes to fitness related traits including brain size and RMR. We therefore conclude that current standard laboratory housing conditions may cause captive animals to be non-representative of their wild counterparts, potentially undermining the transferability of previous laboratorybased studies of aquatic ectothermic vertebrates to wild populations.

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Turschwell, M. P., & White, C. R. (2016). The effects of laboratory housing and spatial enrichment on brain size and metabolic rate in the eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki. Biology Open, 5(3), 205–210. https://doi.org/10.1242/bio.015024

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