Investigating the role of visual information in animal communication often involves the experimental presentation of live stimuli, mirrors, dummies, still images, video recordings or computer animations. In recent years computer animations have received increased attention, as this technology allows the presentation of moving stimuli that exhibit a fully standardized behaviour. However, whether simple animated 2D-still images of conspecific and heterospecific stimulus animals can elicit detailed behavioural responses in test animals is unclear thus far. In this study we validate a simple method to generate animated still images using PowerPoint presentations as an experimental tool. We studied context-specific behaviour directed towards conspecifics and heterospecifics, using the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher as model species. N. pulcher did not only differentiate between images of conspecifics, predators and herbivorous fish, but they also showed adequate behavioural responses towards the respective stimulus images as well as towards stimulus individuals of different sizes. Our results indicate that even simple animated still images, which can be produced with minimal technical effort at very low costs, can be used to study detailed behavioural responses towards social and predatory challenges. Thus, this technique opens up intriguing possibilities to manipulate single or multiple visual features of the presented animals by simple digital image-editing and to study their relative importance to the observing fish. We hope to encourage further studies to use animated images as a powerful research tool in behavioural and evolutionary studies.
You can’t always get what you want: size assortative mating by mutual mate choice as a resolution of sexual conflict. —
BMC Evol. Biol.9: 129.
Parallel evolution of facial stripe patterns in the Neolamprologus brichardi/pulcher species complex endemic to Lake Tanganyika. —
Mol. Phylogenet. Evol.45:
Allometric shape change of the lower pharyngeal jaw correlates with a dietary shift to piscivory in a cichlid fish. —
Species recognition in the blackbordered damselfish Dascyllus marginatus (Rüppell): an evaluation of computer-animated playback techniques. —
J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.318:
“Armpit effect” in an African cichlid fish: self-referent kin recognition in mating decisions of male Pelvicachromis taeniatus. —
Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol.68:
anyFish: an open-source software to generate animated fish models for behavioural studies. —
Evol. Ecol. Res.15: