acta ethologica

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 51–60 | Cite as

The effects of previous experience and current condition on status contests in the bluebanded goby (Lythrypnus dalli)

  • Tessa K. Solomon-LaneEmail author
  • Matthew S. Grober
Original Paper


Social status can change over a lifetime and affect fitness. Status transitions are often influenced by previous experience such that previous winners tend to dominate in future interactions, while losers tend to remain subordinate. We investigated the role of social status experience on future status contests in the bluebanded goby (Lythrypnus dalli), a highly social, sex-changing fish. Female L. dalli were given long-term experience as alpha (dominant) or beta (subordinate) in a stable social group of three fish (two females, one dominant male). We hypothesized that females with previous dominance experience would be more likely to become dominant in a novel context and change sex, a status-dependent transition. We found that in size-matched pairs, half of the previous alphas and half of the previous betas established and maintained dominance in the novel pair. Previous betas were more likely to become dominant in pairs with small relative differences in physical condition. Betas that initiated more interactions with the male in the stable group were also more likely to become dominant. Experience only had a transient effect on agonistic behavior during status establishment. In pairs in which the previous beta established dominance, individual agonistic efficiency, or the proportion of their approaches that led to a displacement, was lower. There was no long-term effect of experience on the rate of sex change. These data suggest that long-term tenure as a subordinate does not, itself, prevent status ascension and that physical condition and individual behavior are relevant factors that influence L. dalli contests.


Agonistic efficiency Condition index Sex change Social experience Social status Winner and loser effects 



We would like to thank Devaleena Pradhan, Madelyne Willis, Kim Connor, Pierre Naude, and Ravi Batra for assistance processing and caring for fish and conducting behavioral observations. This work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant to MSG (IOB-0548567), a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (1311303), Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research, Georgia State Dissertation Grant, and Honeycutt Fellowship to TKSL, and by the Georgia State University Neuroscience Institute, Department of Biology, and Brains & Behavior Program.

Compliance with ethical standards

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of Georgia State University, at which the studies were conducted (IACUC protocol #A13023).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg and ISPA 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Neuroscience InstituteGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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