Social dominance and reproduction result in increased integration of oxidative state in males of an African cichlid fish

Robert J. Fialkowski, Shana E. Border, Isobel Bolitho, Peter D. Dijkstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Oxidative stress is a potential cost of social dominance and reproduction, which could mediate life history trade-offs between current and future reproductive fitness. However, the evidence for an oxidative cost of social dominance and reproduction is mixed, in part because organisms have efficient protective mechanisms that can counteract oxidative insults. Further, previous studies have shown that different aspects of oxidative balance, including oxidative damage and antioxidant function, vary dramatically between tissue types, yet few studies have investigated oxidative cost in terms of interconnectedness and coordination within the system. Here, we tested whether dominant and subordinate males of the cichlid Astatotilapia burtoni differ in integration of different components of oxidative stress. We assessed 7 markers of oxidative stress, which included both oxidative damage and antioxidant function in various tissue types (total of 14 measurements). Across all oxidative stress measurements, we found more co-regulated clusters in dominant males, suggesting that components of oxidative state are more functionally integrated in dominant males than they are in subordinate males. We discuss how a high degree of functional integration reflects increased robustness or efficiency of the system (e.g. increased effectiveness of antioxidant machinery in reducing oxidative damage), but we also highlight potential costs (e.g. activation of cytoprotective mechanisms may have unwanted pleiotropic effects). Overall, our results suggest that quantifying the extent of functional integration across different components of oxidative stress could reveal insights into the oxidative cost of important life history events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111216
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Antioxidants
  • Life history trade-offs
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Reproduction
  • Social hierarchy
  • Territoriality


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