Rearing environment influences boldness and prey acquisition behavior, and brain and lens development of bull trout

William R. Brignon, Martin M. Pike, Lars O.E. Ebbesson, Howard A. Schaller, James T. Peterson, Carl B. Schreck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Animals reared in barren captive environments exhibit different developmental trajectories and behaviors than wild counterparts. Hence, the captive phenotypes may influence the success of reintroduction and recovery programs for threatened and endangered species. We collected wild bull trout embryos from the Metolius River Basin, Oregon and reared them in differing environments to better understand how captivity affects the bull trout Salvelinus confluentus phenotype. We compared the boldness and prey acquisition behaviors and development of the brain and eye lens of bull trout reared in conventional barren and more structurally complex captive environments with that of wild fish. Wild fish and captive reared fish from complex habitats exhibited a greater level of boldness and prey acquisition ability, than fish reared in conventional captive environments. In addition, the eye lens of conventionally reared bull trout was larger than complex reared captive fish or same age wild fish. Interestingly, we detected wild fish had a smaller relative cerebellum than either captive reared treatment. Our results suggest that rearing fish in more complex captive environments can create a more wild-like phenotype than conventional rearing practices. A better understanding of the effects of captivity on the development and behavior of bull trout can inform rearing and reintroduction programs though prediction of the performance of released individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-401
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Behavioral development
  • Behavioral plasticity
  • Boldness behavior
  • Brain development
  • Bull trout
  • Eye development
  • Species conservation
  • Species recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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