Aggregation Behavior in Wildtype and Transgenic Zebrafish


Scott P. McRobert, Department of Biology, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA 19131, USA. E-mail:


Recent advances in the development and availability of genetically modified animals enable researchers to examine the effects of phenotypic characters on social behavior. In fish, shoaling behavior is known to be influenced by characteristics such as body coloration, striping pattern, body shape, and size. GloFishTM are genetically engineered zebrafish (Danio rerio) that express red fluorescent protein (RFP), resulting in on overall red coloration under the dark longitudinal stripes. The GloFish pattern is distinct from the light body coloration underlying the dark longitudinal stripes seen in wildtype zebrafish. We presented wildtype and transgenic RFP zebrafish with same-sex shoals of both strains of fish in dichotomous choice tests. No preference for either of the shoals was shown, however, both strains showed significant preferences for swimming near shoals vs. swimming near an empty tank compartment. When presented with opposite-sex individuals of both strains, no preference was shown by either sex of either strain. Thus, the red body coloration of transgenic zebrafish does not appear to affect choice of social partner, in either a shoaling or a potentially reproductive context.