Group structure in a restricted entry system is mediated by both resident and joiner preferences
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- Jordan, L.A., Avolio, C., Herbert-Read, J.E. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2010) 64: 1099. doi:10.1007/s00265-010-0924-1
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The benefits of grouping behaviour may not be equally distributed across all individuals within a group, leading to conflict over group membership among established group members, and between residents and outsiders attempting to join a group. Although the interaction between the preferences of joining individuals and existing group members may exert considerable pressure on group structure, empirical work on group living to date has focussed on free entry groups, in which all individuals are permitted entry. Using the humbug damselfish, Dascyllus aruanus, we examined a restricted entry grouping system, in which group residents control membership by aggressively rejecting potential new members. We found that the preferences shown by joining members were not always aligned with strategies that incurred the least harm from resident group members, suggesting a conflict between the preferences of residents and preferences of group joiners. Solitary fish preferred to join familiar groups and groups of size-matched residents. Residents were less aggressive towards familiar group joiners. However, resident aggression towards unfamiliar individuals depended on the size of the joining individual, the size of the resident and the composition of the group. These results demonstrate that animal group structure is mediated by both the preferences of joining individuals and the preferences of residents.