A behavioral logic underlying aggression in an African cichlid fish [article]

Beau A Alward, Phillip H Cathers, Danielle M Blakkan, Russell D Fernald
2020 bioRxiv   pre-print
Social rank in a hierarchy determines which individuals have access to important resources such as food, shelter, and mates. In the African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, rank is under social control, such that larger males are more likely than smaller males to be dominant in rank. Although it is well known that the relative size of A. burtoni males is critical in controlling social rank, the specific behavioral strategies underlying responses to males of different sizes are not well
more » ... tood. In this research, our goal was to characterize these responses by performing resident-intruder assays, in which a dominant male with a territory (i.e., the resident) was exposed to an unfamiliar, non-dominant male intruder that differed in relative standard length (SL). We found that relative SL played an important role in determining behavioral performance. Resident males exposed to larger (>5% larger in SL) or matched (between 0 and 5% larger or smaller in SL) intruder males performed more lateral displays, a type of non-physical aggression, compared to resident males exposed to smaller (>5% smaller in SL) intruder males. However, physical aggression, such as chases and bites, did not differ as a function of relative SL. Our results suggest that A. burtoni males amplify non-physical aggression to settle territorial disputes in response to differences in relative SL that were not previously considered to be behaviorally relevant.
doi:10.1101/2020.07.22.216473 fatcat:cpjqd3nmsfd5hapz2aeejw7w54