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Constance O'Connor, Adam Reddon, Aderinsola Odetunde, Shagun Jindal, and Sigal Balshine (2015)

Social cichlid fish change behaviour in response to a visual predator stimulus, but not the odour of damaged conspecifics

Behavioural Processes, 121:21-29.

Predation is one of the primary drivers of fitness for prey species. Therefore, there should be strong selection for accurate assessment of predation risk, and whenever possible, individuals should use all available information to fine-tune their response to the current threat of predation. Here, we used a controlled laboratory experiment to assess the responses of individual Neolamprologus pulcher, a social cichlid fish, to a live predator stimulus, to the odour of damaged conspecifics, or to both indicators of predation risk combined. We found that fish in the presence of the visual predator stimulus showed typical antipredator behaviour. Namely, these fish decreased activity and exploration, spent more time seeking shelter, and more time closer to conspecifics. Surprisingly, there was no effect of the chemical cue alone, and fish showed a reduced response to the combination of the visual predator stimulus and the odour of damaged conspecifics relative to the visual predator stimulus alone. These results demonstrate that N. pulcher adjust their anti-predator behaviour to the information available about current predation risk, and we suggest a possible role for the use of social information in the assessment of predation risk in a cooperatively breeding fish.