The fish that cried wolf: the role of parental care in novel predator recognition in juvenile convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia)

in Behaviour
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This study tested if convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia) with prior predator experience could socially transfer their predator knowledge to their offspring. Prior to reproduction, pairs were assigned to either an experimental or control associative learning treatment, and given novel predator odour from a wolf cichlid (Parachromis dovii) paired with either alarm cue or water respectively. We hypothesized that upon re-exposure to the odour, experimental pairs would socially transfer their acquired predator knowledge to their naïve offspring, which in turn would exhibit antipredator behaviour. While fry from both treatment groups did not show a difference in shoal formation, there is some evidence to suggest a trend in the experimental group regarding parental ability to transfer information to offspring and influence shoal behaviour. When tested individually, experimental fry decreased their activity more than control fry in the presence of the predator odour. This study provides evidence of a unique form of predator learning between parents and offspring, suggesting that biparental care may also serve to provide offspring with information about the habitat into which they are born.



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  • Mean amount of time experimental and control pairs spent sheltering before and after training ± SE. Control pairs showed no difference in the mean amount of time pairs spent sheltering before or after being given water and P. dovii odour on the day of training. Experimental pairs spent more time sheltering after being given conspecific alarm cue in conjunction with P. dovii odour than they did before the training treatment.

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  • Mean nearest-neighbour distance between fry before and after predator odour exposure ± SE. Fry locations 1 min before and after the addition of P. dovii odour were recorded, and the mean distance between all fry in the visible shoal were calculated for each replicate. Fry from both treatment groups decreased their nearest-neighbour distance after receiving P. dovii odour.

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  • Comparison of mean fry activity in the presence of predator odour ± SE. Fry were assessed for their activity level (lines crossed) in the presence of P. dovii odour. A total of 30 fry were tested individually from each clutch, and the mean number of lines crossed was calculated for each replicate. Fry belonging to control pairs crossed more lines on average than fry from experimental pairs.

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  • Experimental design. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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