Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 57, Issue 6, pp 575–583 | Cite as

Social recognition in sticklebacks: the role of direct experience and habitat cues

  • Ashley J. W. WardEmail author
  • Robert I. Holbrook
  • Jens Krause
  • Paul J. B. Hart
Original Article


The social organisation of animals relies on recognition. However, there are many means by which animals may recognise one another and a variety of cues are available to any individual at any one time. We tested the effects of cues based on direct experience and of cues based on habitat and diet on association decisions in the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Our results show that sticklebacks rapidly acquire association preferences for novel con- and heterospecifics (nine-spined sticklebacks, Pungitius pungitius) which had experienced the same habitat and diet conditioning as themselves over novel con- and heterospecifics which had experienced a different habitat and diet conditioning, a preference which may be based on self-referent matching. Association preferences were observed after only 24 h and were independent of the number of tank mates (treatments with 20 and 100 fish). Evidence for the influence of direct social experience on association preferences was weak and may be confounded by other factors.


Odour Olfaction Recognition Stickleback Vision 



The authors would like to thank Steve Ison for his valuable assistance over the course of this study and also Iain Couzin for his helpful suggestions on the manuscript. Furthermore, we would like to thank Kai Lindström and three anonymous referees for their comments which greatly improved the manuscript. A.W. was funded by the National Environmental Research Council of the UK. These experiments comply with the current laws of the UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashley J. W. Ward
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert I. Holbrook
    • 1
  • Jens Krause
    • 2
  • Paul J. B. Hart
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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