Nature-Based Tourism Elicits a Phenotypic Shift in the Coping Abilities of Fish

Abstract : Nature-based tourism is gaining extensive popularity, increasing the intensity and frequency of human-wildlife contacts. As a consequence, behavioral and physiological alterations were observed in most exposed animals. However, while the majority of these studies investigated the effects of punctual exposure to tourists, the consequences of constant exposition to humans in the wild remains overlooked. This is an important gap considering the exponential interest for recreational outdoor activities. To infer long-term effects of intensive tourism, we capitalized on, a short-lived sedentary Tetra fish who spends its life close to humans, on which it feeds on dead skin. Hence, those fish are constantly exposed to tourists throughout their lifecycle. Here we provide an integrated picture of the whole phenomenon by investigating, for the first time, the expression of genes involved in stress response and neurogenesis, as well as behavioral and hormonal responses of animals consistently exposed to tourists. Gene expression of the mineralocorticoid (and cortisol) receptor () and the neurogenic differentiation factor () were significantly higher in fish sampled in the touristic zone compared to those sampled in the control zone. Additionally, after a simulated stress in artificial and controlled conditions, those fish previously exposed to visitors produced more cortisol and presented increased behavioral signs of stress compared to their non-exposed conspecifics. Overall, nature-based tourism appeared to shift selection pressures, favoring a sensitive phenotype that does not thrive under natural conditions. The ecological implications of this change in coping style remain, nevertheless, an open question.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 18, 2019 - 5:05:28 PM
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Benjamin Geffroy, Bastien Sadoul, Amine Bouchareb, Sylvain Prigent, Jean-Paul Bourdineaud, et al.. Nature-Based Tourism Elicits a Phenotypic Shift in the Coping Abilities of Fish. Frontiers in Physiology, Frontiers, 2018, 9, pp.13. ⟨10.3389/fphys.2018.00013⟩. ⟨hal-01744585⟩

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