Stimulus-specific behavioral responses of zebrafish to a large range of odors exhibit individual variability
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionBMC Biology. 2020, 18 (66), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12915-020-00801-8
Background Odor-driven behaviors such as feeding, mating, and predator avoidance are crucial for animal survival. The neural pathways processing these behaviors have been well characterized in a number of species, and involve the activity of diverse brain regions following stimulation of the olfactory bulb by specific odors. However, while the zebrafish olfactory circuitry is well understood, a comprehensive characterization linking odor-driven behaviors to specific odors is needed to better relate olfactory computations to animal responses. Results Here, we used a medium-throughput setup to measure the swimming trajectories of 10 zebrafish in response to 17 ecologically relevant odors. By selecting appropriate locomotor metrics, we constructed ethograms systematically describing odor-induced changes in the swimming trajectory. We found that adult zebrafish reacted to most odorants using different behavioral programs and that a combination of a few relevant behavioral metrics enabled us to capture most of the variance in these innate odor responses. We observed that individual components of natural food and alarm odors do not elicit the full behavioral response. Finally, we show that zebrafish blood elicits prominent defensive behaviors similar to those evoked by skin extract and activates spatially overlapping olfactory bulb domains. Conclusion Altogether, our results highlight a prominent intra- and inter-individual variability in zebrafish odor-driven behaviors and identify a small set of waterborne odors that elicit robust responses. Our behavioral setup and our results will be useful resources for future studies interested in characterizing innate olfactory behaviors in aquatic animals.