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The Effect of Natural Chemical Stimuli On the Preferential Behaviour of Oreochromis Mossambicus (Pisces: Cichlidae) Fry To Maternal Models

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The effect of natural chemical stimuli on the preferential behaviour of Oreochromis mossambicus fry to maternal models was investigated. Previous research (RUSSOCK, 1986) had indicated that when the fry were exposed to a natural maternal model and later given a choice between two maternal models in a simultaneous choice test, no consistent preferential behaviour was exhibited. The present study investigated whether natural chemical stimuli could trigger the expression of preferential behaviour in this situation. In Experiment I groups of fry were exposed to a maternal model and tested for preferential behaviour between two maternal models in water previously occupied by 1) their mother, 2) another female O. mossambicus spawning at the same time as their mother, 3) a non-parental female conspecific, 4) a male conspecific or 5) control water. The groups of fry exposed to the maternal models in water previously occupied by their own mother or by an another spawning female did, in fact, exhibit later consistent preferential behavior for the higher contrast model. Groups of fry exposed to non-parental female water, male water or control water did not exhibit later preferential behaviour. In Experiment II groups of fry were not exposed to a visual model before testing, but were 1) exposed to and tested in their mother's water, 2) exposed to control water and tested in their mother's water, or 3) exposed to their mother's water and tested in control water. Only the group of fry exposed and later tested in their mother's water exhibited consistent preferential behaviour toward the 'high contrast' maternal model. It was concluded that the mother's chemical stimuli act to sensitize or potentiate later preferential behaviour and also serve as a necessary contextual cue at the time of testing. This phenomenon does not fit neatly into known paradigms of social bond formation such as imprinting, priming or functional validation. However, it does appear to be adaptive in the context of the natural behaviour of the fry.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, Connecticut 06810, U.S.A


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