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UOttawa study shows animals also benefit from socializing

A new survey by the University looks at whether social interactions help fish deal with stress.

A new survey by professor Kathleen Gilmour of the university’s department of biology, U of O alum Brett Culbert and professor Sigal Balshine of McMaster University, looks at whether social interactions help fish deal with stress.

Results show that when living in groups, Neolamprologus pulcher (a type of fish) benefited from being with others when they are stressed. They also recovered from stress more quickly, had lower levels of stress hormones and resumed normal behaviour more quickly when compared to fish that recovered by themselves.

According to Culbert, the inquiry confirms the advantages that social relationships have on animals.

‘‘In general, I think that it is important for people to consider that social interactions are critical for almost all animals. Similar to the relaxation that we feel while spending time with family or friends, fish also benefit from positive social interactions,’’ says Culbert.

According to Culbert, who is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Guelph, previous research on the topic focused mainly on mammals. This time, the group decided to zero-in on that similar effects occur in fish. This is also the first review to assess the behavioural and physiological factors that mediate these stress-reducing effects in a non-mammalian animal and identifies the differences between mammals and other vertebrates.

The study, 'Social buffering of stress in a group-living fish", was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.

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