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Transmission of Fright Reaction Between Different Species of Fish

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Awareness of predators in group living species can be brought about in two ways. Either an individual directly senses a predator itself or it gets indirect information by monitoring other group members which have detected a predator. In this paper, I demonstrate such information transfer between two species of fish. A mixed shoal of chub (Leuciscus cephalus) and sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) was presented with Schrecksloff, an alarm substance, wide-spread among cyprinid fishes. Sticklebacks are not sensitive to Schreckstoff and their behaviour was observed in the presence of naive and habituated chub. Naive chub responded to Schreckstoff with a strong and immediate fright reaction whereas habituated chub did not. Sticklebacks only displayed a fright reaction when associated with naive chub, which indicates that they can obtain information about a potential predator threat by monitoring the behaviour of the chub. This result suggests that shoaling with Schreckstoff-sensitive cyprinids can provide a benefit for sticklebacks.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, U.K.

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