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Brett M Culbert, Peter D Dijkstra, Kathleen M Gilmour, and Sigal Balshine (2022)

Antioxidant capacity differs across social ranks and with ascension in males of a group-living fish

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 265.

Animals that live in groups often form hierarchies in which an individual's behaviour and physiology varies based on their social rank. Occasionally, a subordinate can ascend into a dominant position and the ascending individual must make rapid behavioural and physiological adjustments to solidify their dominance. These periods of social transition and instability can be stressful and ascending individuals often incur large metabolic costs that could influence their oxidative status. Most previous investigations examining the link between oxidative status and the social environment have done so under stable social conditions and have evaluated oxidative status in a single tissue. Therefore, evaluations of how oxidative status is regulated across multiple tissues during periods of social flux would greatly enhance our understanding of the relationship between oxidative status and the social environment. Here, we assessed how antioxidant capacity in three tissues (brain, gonad, and muscle) varied among dominant, subordinate, and ascending males of the group-living cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher. Antioxidant capacity in the brain and muscle of ascending males was intermediate to that of dominant (highest levels) and subordinate males (lowest levels) and correlated with differences in social and locomotor behaviours, respectively. Gonad antioxidant capacity was lower in ascending males than in dominant males. However, gonad antioxidant capacity was positively correlated with the size of ascending males' gonads suggesting that ascending males may increase gonad antioxidant capacity as they develop their gonads. Overall, our results highlight the widespread physiological consequences of social ascension and emphasize the importance of tissue-specific measures of oxidative status.