The Social preference network

Adult zebrafish are extremely social animals. They prefer to swim together in groups called shoals. Young zebrafish instead, do not show this social preference, and prefer to swim alone.

Larval zebrafish swimming


Juvenile zebrafish swimming

We have recently shown that zebrafish start to display social preference for other fish around 2-3 weeks of age by using a new social preference assay for juvenile fish (Dreosti et al. 2015). Interestingly, around the same age, some individuals may start showing avoidance for other fish (see movies below).

Since zebrafish develop ex utero (i.e. their entire development happens outside of their mother) and are still largely transparent after 2-3 weeks, this offers us a great opportunity to watch the development of the whole brain network involved in social preference behaviour, from a single cell to the mature circuit.


Social juvenile zebrafish


Scared juvenile zebrafish


The lab is working on the following projects:

1) What are the brain areas involved in processing visual social information? When do they develop?

2) What are the visual features that zebrafish use to recognise other zebrafish (conspecifics)?

3) What happens when the normal development of the social preference networks is impaired by environmental conditions or genetic mutations?