Shoaling decisions in three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus)—familiarity, kinship and inbreeding
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- Frommen, J.G., Mehlis, M., Brendler, C. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2007) 61: 533. doi:10.1007/s00265-006-0281-2
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Shoaling with familiar kin is a well-known phenomenon. It has been described both for adult and for fry of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). However, evidence of preference for kin independent of familiarity is scarce. Furthermore, inbreeding effects have not been studied for shoaling preferences and there is a lack of studies about changes in individuals’ ability to recognise kin during different phases of life history. We gave inbred and outbred, nonreproductive sticklebacks of different age the choice to shoal with a group of familiar siblings vs unfamiliar non-siblings and with unfamiliar siblings vs unfamiliar non-siblings. Subadult sticklebacks preferred to shoal with familiar kin over unfamiliar non-kin, but inbred and outbred individuals had similar preferences. When given the choice between unfamiliar siblings and unfamiliar non-sibs, adult outbred fish preferred the shoal of kin, while inbred fish behaved indifferently. Body characteristics of the group such as body mass, standard length and condition of its members did not significantly explain the shoaling preferences for kin. Thus, sticklebacks were capable of recognising familiar and unfamiliar kin. The latter capability was lost by inbreeding.