Eye colour in juvenile Atlantic salmon: effects of social status, aggression and foraging success


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Status-based differences in sclera colour in small groups of juvenile Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, held in a semi-natural environment over a 20 day period, became obvious 3 days after the start of the study and persisted for the 20 days. Dominant fish had pale sclera, and this pattern was very stable over the experimental period. In contrast, the sclera colour of subordinate fish (ranks 2–5) fluctuated from day to day. Median sclera colour offish ranked 4–5 darkened on days they received more aggression, and sclera of rank 2 fish were lighter on days on which they initiated more attacks. Changes in sclera colour of fish ranked 2–4 were more frequent during feeding periods than non-feeding periods. This study confirms that the relationship between eye colour and status described in tanks is also seen in more natural environments, and also that colour change in juvenile salmonids is a complex response to local events.