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The Disturbed Feeding Behavior of the Three-Spined Stickleback: I. Electric Shock Is Administered in the Food Area

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1. Three-spined sticklebacks were kept in tanks divided by a partition into a living area and a food area. Fish that had heen deprived of food were shocked for entering the food area or for grasping pieces of food. The time of food deprivation and the intensity of shock were varied. 2. When feeding behavior is shown, the ratio of initiated to completed responses and the duration of feeding responses indicate a level of hunger that is greater than normal for that period of deprivation. But feeding behavior is interrupted by returns to the living area which last for a longer time than in normal feeding sessions. Provided that total time spent performing feeding activities is not too drastically reduced, the fish complete more feeding responses than normally. With increasing shock intensity, the total number of completed feeding responses decreases. 3. An increase in returns to the living area is not necessarily a characteristic effect of shock. The group of fish shocked at the moment of entering the food area avoid the opening in the partition between the food and living area and return less frequently than in normal feeding sessions. The fish shocked for grasping food return to the living area more frequently. Both groups spend more time away from the food area on each return to the living area, an effect that increased with the intensity of shock. 4. In the living area, the fish avoid the part of the tank nearest to the food area, turn back after having advanced toward the food area, and hesitate before crossing the partition from the living area to the food area. It is suggested that the effect of shock has been to produce avoidance of the locus of shock but not directly to prevent feeding responses from occurring. 5. Dorsal spine raising becomes more frequent after shock and most frequent after intense shock. In absolute terms, and relative to the frequency of movements in the various sections of the tank, dorsal spine raising becomes prominent in the part of the living area near the locus at which shock was administered. 6. The rate of performing comfort movements in the living area but not in the food area has been increased by shock. Comfort movements show the frequency and the place of a change from moving away from the food area to moving toward the food area. Electric shock and increasing hunger have opposing effects on the frequency and locus of the change, and the performance of a comfort movement indicates an interaction of these variables. The influence of shock increases very rapidly when the locus of shock is approached, and the influence of hunger is not similarly affected by nearness to the food area. A slow shift in predominance of these two conditions with opposing effects on advances into the food area is not likely to occur at the beginning of a retreat from the food and shock locus. A. large number of comfort movements is performed when the fish change from retreating to advancing but not when changing from advancing to retreating.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, Oxford


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