Mixed-species shoaling in fish: the sensory mechanisms and costs of shoal choice
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The mechanisms and functions of mixed-species shoaling were investigated in two sympatric species of cyprinids, the chub and the European minnow, from the river Wharfe where they comprised approximately 70% of all year 0+ fish over a 20-year survey. Chub preferred conspecific shoals over heterospecific ones with olfactory cues being more important than visual ones for shoal choice. This preference was consistent with measurements of length:flank area ratios and length:weight ratios which suggest that both species are similar in appearance. When presented with mixed-species shoals, chub increased the percentage time spent with stimulus shoals with increasing proportions of conspecifics. Feeding experiments suggest that the preference for conspecific shoals is driven by interspecific competition (with minnows out-competing similar-sized chub) and the oddity effect. The importance of this work in the context of species assortment in free-ranging shoals is discussed.
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