The Tagging Procedure of Visible Implant Elastomers Influences Zebrafish Individual and Social Behavior

Tommaso Ruberto, Romain J.G. Clément, Chiara Spinello, Daniele Neri, Simone MacRì, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One commonly used method to preserve individual identity in the study of social behavior of zebrafish is through silicone-based visible implant elastomers (VIEs), which represent a safe and durable tagging procedure. While the effects of VIE tagging on welfare and general health have been addressed in detail, whether this procedure influences social behavior remains unclear. In this study, we compared individual and group behaviors exhibited by shoals composed of three individuals: two nontagged and one (focal subject) that was either nontagged (control condition) or sham-, purple-, blue-, or yellow tagged. Traditional behavioral parameters of activity, shoaling, and schooling (speed, polarization, and interindividual distances), along with an information-theoretic measure of social interaction (transfer entropy), were used to study the effect of tagging. Our findings indicate that tagging procedure per se significantly increased individual speed of the tagged subjects and of the group. The tagging procedure also altered the level of interaction between individuals, measured by transfer entropy. Conversely, tagging procedure did not influence shoaling and schooling tendencies. These findings suggest that VIE tagging may elicit some level of stress, which may affect some behavioral responses more than others. We recommend use of alternative methods such as multitracking systems when possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-444
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Danio rerio
  • identification
  • social behavior
  • tagging
  • visible implant elastomer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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