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A Comparison of Feeding, Spacing, and Aggression in Color Morphs of the Midas Cichlid. Ii. After 24 Hours Without Food

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We set out to test three hypotheses: (1) Gold Effect - the coloration of the gold morph confers an advantage in hostile interactions because that color inhibits aggression. (2) Habituation Effect - fish habituate to gold fish if they are encountered frequently. (3) Dominance-Generalization Effect - the color of the dominant fish is learned, and small fish who share that color receive some protection from attacks. The basic experiment consisted of one large juvenile dominating a feeder which was approached by small fish, 3 golds and 3 normals. In the treatment, the feeder was removed for 24 hr then replaced 20 min before recording; this was done to see if the Gold Effect would prevail over the Habituation Effect under conditions of forced competition. Contrary to expectations, the large fish attacked the small golds more than the small normals. However, their attacks could have been evoked by the attacks or feeding behavior of the small fish. The small fish themselves showed both the Gold and Dominance-Generalization Effects. And, as predicted, the Gold Effect prevailed over the Habituation Effect after being deprived of food; but the same thing happened in the control situation, apparently due to the stimulation of revealing concealed worms when their feeder was simply lifted and immediately replaced. The small golds appeared to feed more often than the small normals, but the difference was not significant. However, the small golds gained significantly more weight than did the small normals. Thus the small golds benefited more from their aggressive advantage over the small normals than they lost by being attacked more by the large dominant fish.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, U.S.A.

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