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Territorial behaviour reflects sexual status in groups of false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) under laboratory conditions

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Abstract

Anemonefishes (genus Amphiprion) are well known as protandrous sex-changing fish. They live symbiotically with sea anemones and form a social unit that consists of a breeding pair and several sexually immature individuals with ambisexual gonads. In general, the hierarchy of the social rank is strictly maintained in a group, and this hierarchy is considered to be one of the critical factors that induce sex change or sex differentiation in anemonefishes. Field observations have shown that behavioural characteristics of anemonefishes vary depending on the environment. In this study we examined the differences in territorial aggression directed at conspecific intruders according to sexual status in the false clown anemonefish, Amphiprion ocellaris, under laboratory conditions. Resident–intruder tests were conducted on groups consisting of three anemonefish: a dominant female, a second-ranked male and a subordinate ambisexual individual. Females and males showed more aggressive behaviour than did ambisexual individuals, and behaviours were specifically directed at intruders of the same sexual status, not at those of the opposite sex. Notably, the female residents displayed fierce aggressive behaviours particularly toward female intruders, whereas male residents engaged more often in side-by-side swimming with male intruders than with female or ambisexual intruders. Ambisexual intruders were threatened by all residents, rarely attacked. We observed only few aggressive acts towards tank mates. These results suggest that sexually mature resident anemonefish in a confined space, such as under laboratory conditions, perceive intruders of the same sexual status as competitors for reproductive status and thus, dominant social rank.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (no. 24570075) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The authors thank Dr. T. Furuta of the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry for providing the anemonefish used in this study.

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Correspondence to Eri Iwata.

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Iwata, E., Manbo, J. Territorial behaviour reflects sexual status in groups of false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) under laboratory conditions. acta ethol 16, 97–103 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-012-0142-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-012-0142-0

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