University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna - Research portal

Diagrammed Link to Homepage University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

Selected Publication:

Open Access Logo

Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2012

Authors: Schädelin, FC; Fischer, S; Wagner, RH

Title: Reduction in predator defense in the presence of neighbors in a colonial fish.

Source: PLoS One. 2012; 7(5):e35833

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Fischer Stefan
Lemmel-Schädelin Franziska
Wagner Richard

Vetmed Research Units
Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology

Project(s): Mechanisms of breeding aggregations in fishes

Predation pressure has long been considered a leading explanation of colonies, where close neighbors may reduce predation via dilution, alarming or group predator attacks. Attacking predators may be costly in terms of energy and survival, leading to the question of how neighbors contribute to predator deterrence in relationship to each other. Two hypotheses explaining the relative efforts made by neighbors are byproduct-mutualism, which occurs when breeders inadvertently attack predators by defending their nests, and reciprocity, which occurs when breeders deliberately exchange predator defense efforts with neighbors. Most studies investigating group nest defense have been performed with birds. However, colonial fish may constitute a more practical model system for an experimental approach because of the greater ability of researchers to manipulate their environment. We investigated in the colonial fish, Neolamprologus caudopunctatus, whether prospecting pairs preferred to breed near conspecifics or solitarily, and how breeders invested in anti-predator defense in relation to neighbors. In a simple choice test, prospecting pairs selected breeding sites close to neighbors versus a solitary site. Predators were then sequentially presented to the newly established test pairs, the previously established stimulus pairs or in between the two pairs. Test pairs attacked the predator eight times more frequently when they were presented on their non-neighbor side compared to between the two breeding sites, where stimulus pairs maintained high attack rates. Thus, by joining an established pair, test pairs were able to reduce their anti-predator efforts near neighbors, at no apparent cost to the stimulus pairs. These findings are unlikely to be explained by reciprocity or byproduct-mutualism. Our results instead suggest a commensal relationship in which new pairs exploit the high anti-predator efforts of established pairs, which invest similarly with or without neighbors. Further studies are needed to determine the scope of commensalism as an anti-predator strategy in colonial animals.

Keywords Pubmed: Animals
Predatory Behavior*

© University of Veterinary Medicine ViennaHelp and Downloads