ABSTRACT

Aversive learning – avoiding certain situations based on negative experiences – can profoundly increase fitness in animal species, yet no studies have systematically quantified its repeatability. Therefore, we assessed the repeatability of aversive learning by conditioning approximately 100 zebrafish (Danio rerio) to avoid a colour cue associated with a mild electric shock. Across eight different colour conditions, zebrafish did not show consistent individual differences in aversive learning (R=0.04). Within conditions, when zebrafish were conditioned to the same colour, blue conditioning was more repeatable than green conditioning (R=0.15 and R=0.02). Overall, aversive learning responses of zebrafish were weak and variable. We speculate that the effect of aversive learning might have been too weak to quantify consistent individual differences, or directional selection might have eroded additive genetic variance. We also discuss how confounded repeatability assays and publication bias could have inflated estimates of repeatability in the literature.

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