Although group living can confer benefits to individuals in terms of reduced predation risk and enhanced foraging success, it may also be associated with costs, such as increased competition for food. The nutritional state of an individual could therefore affect its readiness to join or remain in groups. We investigated the shoaling behaviour of banded killifish by following marked individuals, whose nutritional state had been experimentally manipulated, and recording their shoaling behaviour in a field enclosure containing unmarked conspecifics. Overall, food-deprived fish spent more time alone, and therefore less time shoaling, than well-fed individuals. When shoaling, however, food-deprived fish were not found in smaller shoals than well-fed conspecifics. Furthermore, they did not show a greater latency to shoal initially. Having joined a shoal, however, food-deprived fish left shoals more frequently to be alone than fed fish. Rates of change in the membership size of shoals occupied by either well-fed or food-deprived fish did not differ. We conclude that nutritional state seems to affect an individual's decision to continue shoaling once an association has been made. This study is the first to investigate experimentally state-dependent changes in the size of social groups in fish under field conditions.

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Journal Animal Behaviour
Hensor, E.M.A., Godin, J.-G.J, Hoare, D.J., & Krause, J. (2003). Effects of nutritional state on the shoaling tendency of banded killifish, Fundulus diaphanus, in the field. Animal Behaviour, 65(4), 663–669. doi:10.1006/anbe.2003.2075