Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 134–140

Correlates of group size in a cooperatively breeding cichlid fish (Neolamprologus pulcher)


  • Sigal Balshine
    • Department of Psychology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4K1, Canada
  • Brenda Leach
    • Department of Biology, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada
  • Francis Neat
    • Biology Department, University of Padova, 35131 Padova, Italy
  • Hannah Reid
    • Department of Anthropology, Dice University, UK
  • Michael Taborsky
    • Konrad Lorenz-Institut furVergleichende Verhaltensforschung (KLIVV), 1160 Vienna, Austria
  • Noam Werner
    • Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s002650100343

Cite this article as:
Balshine, S., Leach, B., Neat, F. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2001) 50: 134. doi:10.1007/s002650100343


Neolamprologus pulcher, a cooperatively breeding cichlid fish from Lake Tanganyika, lives in permanent social groups comprising one breeding pair and helpers of both sexes. Variation in group size (1–14 helpers) provides an opportunity to investigate factors that affect how many helpers remain in a group and in turn how group size affects reproductive success. This field study showed that larger groups live in larger territories with more shelter. Group size was more strongly correlated with territory quality than with breeder size. Experimental enhancement of territory quality did not affect group size but group size decreased when territory quality was reduced. Breeders living in a large group benefit because such individuals feed more often and have lower workloads and greater reproductive success. Helpers in larger groups also fed more frequently but did not have lower workloads. This is one of the first experimental studies to examine the factors influencing group size in cooperative breeders.

Territory quality Lake Tanganyika Shelter Neolamprologus pulcher

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001