Psychological Stress and Welfare in Fish
Rui Oliveira, Leonor Galhardo
The ability to respond to stress is vital to the survival of any living
organism, though sustained reactions can become detrimental to the health and
welfare of animals. Stress responses of vertebrates are known through several
studies in their physiological, behavioural and psychological components, under
acute and chronic contexts.
In fish, the physiological and behavioural aspects of stress are considerably
well known phenomena and show striking similarities to those of other
vertebrates. However, the psychological component is not well known. Some
authors deny mental experiences to fish on the basis of their lack of neocortex.
Nevertheless, recent studies have shown neuroendocrine, cognitive and emotional
processes in fish that are not only equivalent to other vertebrates, but also
allow inferring some forms of mental representation. The integration of
psychological elements in fish stress physiology is insufficiently studied, but,
as discussed in this article, there is already indirect evidence to admit that
some form of stimuli appraisal can take place in fish. This fact has profound
implications on the regulation of the stress response, as well as on fish
welfare and its management.
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