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Cost of a deprived environment - increased intraspecific aggression and susceptibility to pathogen infections

Masud, Numair, Ellison, Amy, Pope, Edward C. and Cable, Jo ORCID: 2020. Cost of a deprived environment - increased intraspecific aggression and susceptibility to pathogen infections. Journal of Experimental Biology 223 (20) , jeb229450. 10.1242/jeb.229450

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A lack of environmental enrichment can be severely detrimental to animal welfare. For terrestrial species, including humans, barren environments are associated with reduced cognitive function and increased stress responses and pathology. Despite a clear link between increased stress and reduced immune function, uncertainty remains on how enrichment might influence susceptibility to disease. For aquatic vertebrates, we are only now beginning to assess enrichment needs. Enrichment deprivation in fish has been linked to increased stress responses, agonistic behaviour, physiological changes and reduced survival. Limited data exist, however, on the impact of enrichment on disease resistance in fish, despite infectious diseases being a major challenge for global aquaculture. Here, using a model vertebrate host–parasite system, we investigated the impact of enrichment deprivation on susceptibility to disease, behaviour and physiology. Fish in barren tanks showed significantly higher infection burdens compared with those in enriched enclosures and they also displayed increased intraspecific aggression behaviour. Infections caused hosts to have significantly increased standard metabolic rates compared with uninfected conspecifics, but this did not differ between enriched and barren tanks. This study highlights the universal physiological cost of parasite infection and the biological cost (increased susceptibility to infection and increased aggression) of depriving captive animals of environmental enrichment.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Company of Biologists
ISSN: 0022-0949
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 November 2020
Date of Acceptance: 3 September 2020
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2022 09:35

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