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Scientific reports

Social harassment induces anxiety-like behaviour in crayfish.


PMID 28045136

Abstract

Social interactions leading to dominance hierarchies often elicit psychological disorders in mammals including harassment and anxiety. Here, we demonstrate that this sequence also occurs in an invertebrate, the crayfish Procambarus clarkii. When placed in the restricted space of an aquarium, crayfish dyads generally fight until one of the opponents suddenly escapes, thereafter clearly expressing a submissive behaviour. Nevertheless, the winner frequently keeps on displaying excessive aggressive acts, having deleterious consequences in losers and interpreted as harassment behaviour. We indeed observed that, contrary to winners, losers expressed anxiety-like behaviour (ALB) in correlation with the stress intensity they suffered during the harassment period mainly. Injections of an anxiolytic abolished ALB, confirming its homology with anxiety. A serotonin (5-HT) antagonist had the same effect, suggesting a role for 5-HT, whose brain concentrations increased much more in losers than in winners. Our findings suggest that the bases of harassment and of its anxiogenic consequences have emerged very early during evolution, and emphasize crayfish as an unexpected but potentially fruitful model for the study of these social disorders.

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