Skip to main content

Habitat instability and oxidative stress

Cite this dataset

Dijkstra, Peter (2021). Habitat instability and oxidative stress [Dataset]. Dryad.


In many animal societies, dominant individuals have priority access to resources. However, defending high rank can be costly too, especially in unstable social hierarchies where there is more intense competition. Oxidative stress has been proposed as a potential cost of social dominance but few studies have examined this cost in relation to social stability. We studied the cost of social dominance in the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni by manipulating social stability among males in replicate naturalistic communities. We found that dominant males experienced increased plasma oxidative damage compared to subordinate males in stable hierarchies only. Subordinate males in unstable hierarchies had higher plasma oxidative damage than their stable community counterparts, but we found no effect of stability treatment for dominant males. However, dominant males tended to have lower liver total antioxidant capacity (TAC) than subordinate males in unstable hierarchies, suggesting that the cost of social dominance is higher in unstable hierarchies. There was no other effect of status in tissue (liver, gonad, muscle) and various redox markers including TAC, NADPH-oxidase activity, and DNA damage. We conclude that the stability of the social environment influences the relative cost of social dominance in a tissue and marker specific manner.  


The data was collected in the laboratory using cichlid fish. Cichlid groups were housed in replicate tanks for 22 weeks before tissue collection. We measured various markers of oxidative stress in different tissue types, including TAC, NADPH-oxidase activity, and DNA damage.

Usage notes

The readme file contains an explanation of each of the variables in the dataset, its measurement units, and -if it concerns a derived variable (displayed in grey) - the way it was calculated from the primary data (displayed in black). #NA =  values not available. Information on how the measurements were done can be found in the associated manuscript referenced above.