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Silva, M. C. da, Canário, A. V. M., Hubbard, P. C., & Gonçalves, D. (2021). Physiology, endocrinology and chemical communication in aggressive behaviour of fishes. Journal of Fish Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.14667
Fishes show remarkably diverse aggressive behaviour. Aggression is expressed to secure resources; adjusting aggression levels according to context is key to avoid negative consequences for fitness and survival. Nonetheless, despite its importance, the physiological basis of aggression in fishes is still poorly understood. Several reports suggest hormonal modulation of aggression, particularly by androgens, but contradictory studies have been published. Studies exploring the role of chemical communication in aggressive behaviour are also scant, and the pheromones involved remain to be unequivocally characterized. This is surprising as chemical communication is the most ancient form of information exchange and plays a variety of other roles in fishes. Furthermore, the study of chemical communication and aggression is relevant at the evolutionary, ecological and economic levels. A few pioneering studies support the hypothesis that aggressive behaviour, at least in some teleosts, is modulated by “dominance pheromones” that reflect the social status of the sender, but there is little information on the identity of the compounds involved. This review aims to provide a global view of aggressive behaviour in fishes and its underlying physiological mechanisms including the involvement of chemical communication, and discusses the potential use of dominance pheromones to improve fish welfare. Methodological considerations and future research directions are also outlined.