In group living animals, individuals may visit other groups. The costs and benefits of such visits for the members of a group will depend on the attributes and intentions of the visitor, and the social status of responding group members. Using wild groups of the cooperatively breeding cichlid fish (Neolamprologus pulcher), we compared group member responses to unfamiliar ‘visiting’ conspecifics in control groups and in experimentally manipulated groups from which a subordinate the same size and sex as the visitor was removed. High-ranking fish were less aggressive towards visitors in removal groups than in control groups; low-ranking subordinates were more aggressive in the removal treatment. High-ranking females and subordinates the same size and sex as the visitor responded most aggressively toward the visitor in control groups. These results suggest that visitors are perceived as potential group joiners, and that such visits impose different costs and benefits on current group members.
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