Agonistic behavior in juvenile blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus
Blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus, the largest catfish in North America and an invasive species in Chesapeake Bay estuaries, has experienced explosive population growth, negatively impacting native species. They have strong pectoral spines that can be locked and rubbed against the pectoral girdle to produce stridulation sounds although sound production during behavioral interactions is unstudied. We examined agonistic behavior in juveniles by allowing individuals to establish a territory and introducing an intruder. Big (43–50 cm total length) and small (36–41 cm) fish were paired within and across size ranges. Territory was considered established when a fish remained in its shelter for over an hour. Fish typically entered the shelter head first and maintained that orientation. They used a variety of agonistic behaviors in shelter defense including aggressive contact, caudal sweeping, and standoff but not the production of stridulation sounds. Individuals often utilized different behaviors indicating less stereotypy than in many fishes, and there were differences in incidence of behaviors between big and small fish. Residents and larger fish did not always win, perhaps due to juvenile status and low fitness consequences of territorial possession.
KeywordsAgonistic behavior Ethogram Pectoral spines Stridulation Sound production Shelter Territoriality
We thank Matt Balazik, Joe Wood, and Dave Hoppler for help obtaining fish and Dominique Thomas, Sarah Ramsden, and Lauren Bonner for help with fish care. Contribution no. 132 from the Rice Center of Virginia Commonwealth University.
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