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Social structure and co-operative interactions in a wild population of guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Abstract

In contrast to the substantial number of theoretical papers that have examined the mechanisms by which cooperation may evolve, very few studies have investigated patterns of co-operation in natural animal populations. In the current study, we use a novel approach, social network analysis, to investigate the structure of co-operative interactions in the context of predator inspection in a wild population of guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Female guppies showed social preferences for stable partners, fulfilling a key assumption made by models of reciprocity. In the laboratory, wild female guppies disproportionately engaged in predator inspection with others with whom they had strong social associations. Furthermore, pairs of fish that frequently engaged in predator inspection did so in a particularly co-operative way, potentially reducing costs associated with predator inspection. Taken together, these results provide evidence for assortative interactions forming the basis of co-operation during predator inspection in a natural fish population. The occurrence of highly interconnected social networks between stable partners suggests the existence of co-operation networks in free-ranging populations of the guppy.

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Acknowledgements

DPC would like to acknowledge funding from the Leverhulme Trust and the FSBI. We would also like to thank Ronnie Hernandez and the Board of Asa Wright Nature Centre, for their continued support in Triniwdad, Jenny James and Marc Botham for assistance in the field, Manfred Milinski, Jean-Guy Godin and Iain Couzin for insightful discussion and comments.

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Correspondence to D. P. Croft.

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Communicated by K. Lindström

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Croft, D.P., James, R., Thomas, P.O.R. et al. Social structure and co-operative interactions in a wild population of guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 59, 644–650 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-005-0091-y

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Keywords

  • Social networks
  • Shoaling
  • Tit-for-tat