Group choice as a function of group size differences and assessment time in fish: The influence of species vulnerability to predation
The shoal-choice behaviour of two species of fish that differ in their vulnerability to predation was compared. Individuals of threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, and creek chub, Semotilus atromaculatus, were presented with a simultaneous choice of two equidistant stimulus shoals of conspecifics that differed in membership size (5 vs. 6 fish, 5 vs. 7, 5 vs. 8, 5 vs. 9 and 5 vs. 10). Test fish were allowed to view the stimulus shoals from a standard distance for either 10-20 or 120-150 s before being frightened with a stimulus from an overhead light and released to join either shoal. We observed which shoal (the smaller or the larger one) the test fish approached. Preference for the larger stimulus shoal generally increased with increasing shoal size difference and with the duration of the assessment period, and was more pronounced in chub (the more vulnerable of the two species). For the short assessment period, chub showed a significantly stronger preference for the larger stimulus shoal than sticklebacks, whereas there was no significant difference between species for the long assessment period. Furthermore, chub responded more readily to small differences in shoal size (of 1-3 fish) than sticklebacks, for both short and long assessment periods. The above results are consistent with the hypothesis that chub, as the more vulnerable of the two species (in terms of predation), should be able to identify the larger of two shoals more quickly and should be more sensitive to small differences in shoal size than sticklebacks.
Krause, J. (Jens), Godin, J.-G.J, & Rubenstein, D. (Dan). (1998). Group choice as a function of group size differences and assessment time in fish: The influence of species vulnerability to predation. Ethology, 104(1), 68–74.