Duration of memory of dominance relationships in a group living cichlid

Abstract

Animal contests are costly and tend to escalate when rivals have similar competitive abilities. Individuals that remember dominance relationships with rivals may avoid repeated agonistic interactions and hence avoid the costs of repeated escalation of contests. However, it can be difficult to experimentally disentangle the effects of memory from those of loser effects (losers behaving subordinately due to prior defeats). Here, we test whether loser effects or individual memory mediate contest behaviour in the African cichlid, Julidochromis transcriptus. We find that on days 3 and 5 after initial contests, losers display subordinate behaviour to contest winners but not to novel contestants. However, this effect disappears after 7 days, at which time losers do not display subordinate behaviour to either rival. These results show that (1) this fish can recall a previously dominant contestant for up to 5 days and (2) as no subordinate displays were shown to the novel contestant, there are no evidences for loser effects in this species. Such short-term memory of past interactions may have broad significance in social species with repeated interactions.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to members of the animal society research group in Osaka City University for valuable discussions and two anonymous referees for very helpful comments on this paper. M. K. was funded by the Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, Culture and Technology, Japan.

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Correspondence to Takashi Hotta.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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Hotta, T., Takeyama, T., Jordan, L.A. et al. Duration of memory of dominance relationships in a group living cichlid. Naturwissenschaften 101, 745–751 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-014-1213-z

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Keywords

  • Individual recognition
  • Memory
  • Loser effect
  • African cichlid