Environmental habituation and sexual composition affect juveniles' shoaling activity in a cichlid fish (Pelvicachromis taeniatus)

By Schons, Rieke F & S. Vitt, T. Thünken

Journal of Fish Biology, pp. epub 29-Jun-2021. DOI: 10.1111/jfb.14836

" Group living is widespread in animals, and many fishes form shoals. Examining within-group interactions in fishes may contribute to the general understanding of dynamic social structures in animals. The sex ratio of a group has been shown to influence grouping decisions of fishes and can be expected to affect behaviour at group level. Behavioural experiments usually involve relatively short acclimatisation times, although the establishment of environmental habituation in fishes is understudied. This study tests whether the sex ratio and long-term habituation to experimental conditions influence general shoal performance (activity parameters, density) and responses of shoals to an acoustic-mechanical disturbance cue in juveniles of the cichlid fish Pelvicachromis taeniatus via individual tracking. The disturbance consisted of a defined hit against the experimental tank, which caused sudden noise and water movement. We found that a higher proportion of females increases shoal activity (swimming speed and distance covered), suggesting that female P. taeniatus are more active than males. Furthermore, shoal activity declined when shoals habituated to the experimental settings and with the time that the shoals were grouped together, which may reflect intensified group member familiarity. Moreover, behavioural changes after disturbance were weaker when individuals were kept with their group longer and more familiar to the experimental conditions. For prey species, lower activity might be beneficial under natural conditions due to lower conspicuousness of the group. We did not find any significant effects of the investigated factors on shoal density (mean interindividual distance) and speed synchronisation. The results indicate that sexual composition, familiarity between shoal members and habituation to the experimental environment affect shoal performance in a cichlid fish "

Classification: Behavior, West Africa.

Language: English

Schons, Rieke F & S. Vitt, T. Thünken. 2021. "Environmental habituation and sexual composition affect juveniles' shoaling activity in a cichlid fish (Pelvicachromis taeniatus)". Journal of Fish Biology. pp. epub. DOI: 10.1111/jfb.14836 (crc11485) (abstract)