The presence of neighbors influences defense against predators in a cooperatively breeding cichlid
Jennifer K. Hellmann and Ian M. Hamilton. 2014. Behavioral Ecology in press. DOI: 10.1093/beheco/aru001
Individuals adjust their response to predators based on the presence or absence of neighboring groups. Within groups of fish, we found that subordinate helpers, but not dominant breeders, increased their aggression toward a predator when neighboring groups were present. Although individual behavior is usually studied in a group context, we demonstrate that the larger social context also needs to be considered because neighboring groups may offer important reproductive opportunities or alter social dynamics of nearby groups.
Jenn Hellmann, PhD student in EEOB with Ian Hamilton, carried out this experiment in order to collect preliminary data for her dissertation, which centers around exploring the influence of neighboring groups and the broader social context on intragroup dynamics.
Photo at right: Some cichlid fish (Neolamprologus pulcher, credit: Isaac Ligocki)