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Neolamprologus pulcher

Our primary study organism is the lyre-tail cichlid or Neolamprologus pulcher, from Lake Tanganyika. Fieldwork is conducted in Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake in the world and the oldest of the African Great Lakes. It is the only place in the world where these cooperatively breeding fish exist in the wild. In Lake Tanganyika, groups of N. pulcher co-defend rocky territories with each social group consisting of a dominant breeding pair and from 1-20 subordinate helpers. Subordinates in the group help by 1) defending the territory, 2) maintaining the territory and its shelters, and 3) caring for young (cleaning, fanning and defending eggs/young). We study how factors such as relatedness, ecological conditions, gene expression, neurons or hormones might influence the degree of cooperation as well as conflict in these fish social groups. Members of our research group work on this species in both the laboratory and the field. We have established and maintain a dedicated behavioural facility at McMaster University for up to 50 social groups. To complement the laboratory experiments, we conduct field research on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Northern Zambia, where we conduct fieldwork together with Zambians as well as collaborate with other international scientists.


Photo Gallery button  See our N. pulcher Photo gallery


Here are a few representative papers of our research on this species:


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