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

posted on 2016-07-06, 07:38 authored by Layla Al-Shaer, Timothy Paciorek, Zachary Carroll, Murray Itzkowitz
Video files showing cichlid parents and fry.
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.