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The Organization of the Pre-Spawning Behaviour in the Cichlid Fish Aequidens Portalegrensis (Hensel)

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

This study was aimed at obtaining insight into: a) how the communicative activities carried out by this substrate laying cichlid fish during the several days lasting pre-spawning period, function in facilitating pair formation, spawning and broodcare, and b) how the behavioural mechanism controlling the performance of these activities is structured. Both sexes use largely the same activities. The causational problems were primarily approached through statistical analysis of quantitative observations, regularly made on interacting males and females between their first confrontation and spawning. On the basis of the temporal association between the various activities, the latter could be classed into three groups, or clusters, which became successively dominant in the course of the pre-spawning period. On the ground of further observations, and on the results of experiments, a closer specification of the factors underlying these clusters was attempted. It was concluded that they are primarily due to internal factors or interactions between such factors, which can however be activated by specific external stimuli. The cluster appearing in the earliest phase of the encounter is simultaneously controlled by tendencies to attack and to escape; this behaviour subserves the defense of the territory. Absence of overt aggression in the response of the female appeases the agonistic behaviour of the male and causes the appearance of behaviour of the second cluster. In the control of this cluster a sexual system is involved beside the agonistic systems. Most of the activities of this cluster are instrumental in preparing a nest site; moreover their performance is likely to have a priming effect on the sexual factor. When this factor has become dominant over the agonistic ones, the fishes concentrate their behaviour on a hard substrate and the activities of the third cluster appear, culminating in oviposition and fertilizing.

Affiliations: 1: Zoological Laboratory, University of Groningen, Postbus 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands


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