Nurture is above nature: nursery experience determines habitat preference of red sea bream Pagrus major juveniles

Kohji Takahashi, Reiji Masuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Habitat preference is thought to be genetically programmed in fishes. However, fishes can choose habitat based on their personal experience of an environment. We investigated whether the environment in which fish are raised affects habitat preference in red sea bream Pagrus major juveniles, and tested if the formed preference lasts until later life stages. Juveniles were reared in tanks with a substrate of either sand or artificial seaweed for 40 days. Naive fish were raised without either type of substrate. In the preference test, individual fish were allowed to choose either a sand or artificial seaweed microhabitat. The tested fish were then kept in barren tanks, and similar tests conducted again on days 30 and 100. Sand and seaweed treatment fish preferred the corresponding habitat immediately after the rearing treatment, whereas naive fish did not exhibit any preference. These preferences were maintained when fish were tested on day 30, but not on day 100. The present study suggests that habitat preference is acquired through the rearing environment at the nursery stage, and that this preference lasts for at least 30 days. The formation of habitat preference should help juveniles to choose an optimal microhabitat in a fluctuating environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Ethology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sept 13


  • Behavioral characteristics
  • Coastal fish
  • Early life stage
  • Habitat choice
  • Microhabitat
  • Non-associative learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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