Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 4, pp 645–651 | Cite as

Turbidity affects social dynamics in Trinidadian guppies

  • Karoline K. Borner
  • Stefan Krause
  • Thomas Mehner
  • Silva Uusi-Heikkilä
  • Indar W. Ramnarine
  • Jens Krause
Original Paper


Turbidity, caused by suspended particles in the water column, induces light scattering and shifts in the wavelengths of light. These changes may impair the ability of fish to use physical cues and hence may modify social interactions. We experimentally investigated the social interactions of guppies, Poecilia reticulata, in clear and turbid water. Fish were significantly less active, formed smaller shoals and were found to be more often alone in turbid than in clear water. A Markov chain analysis revealed significant differences in the social dynamics when comparing clear and turbid water conditions. The probability of leaving a particular nearest neighbour and the probability of choosing some neighbour after swimming around alone differed between the treatments. Our results indicate that turbidity has a number of different effects on the social interactions of the guppy, and we discuss their potential costs and benefits and wider implications.


Social dynamics Shoaling behaviour Poecilia reticulata Group-living Turbidity 



KKB would like to thank Romain JG Clément for the help with the turbidity measurements in the field, Ralf HJM Kurvers for statistical discussion and the participants of the workshop “Scientific writing” at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries for helpful discussions at an early stage of manuscript. Further, we thank three anonymous referees for the helpful comments. This study was enabled by a scholarship provided by Elsa-Neumann-Stiftung.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest

Compliance with ethical standards

This research was performed in accordance with the laws, guidelines and ethical standards of the country in which they were performed (Trinidad).

Supplementary material

265_2015_1875_MOESM1_ESM.docx (53 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 53.2 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karoline K. Borner
    • 1
    • 5
  • Stefan Krause
    • 2
  • Thomas Mehner
    • 1
  • Silva Uusi-Heikkilä
    • 3
  • Indar W. Ramnarine
    • 4
  • Jens Krause
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceLübeck University of Applied SciencesLübeckGermany
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  4. 4.Department of Life SciencesThe University of the West IndiesSt AugustineTrinidad & Tobago
  5. 5.Faculty of Life SciencesHumboldt Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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