Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 285–305 | Cite as

Studying Visual Cues in Fish Behavior: A Review of Ethological Techniques

  • William J. Rowland


This paper reviews the variety of approaches available to fish ethologists to study the role of visual cues in fish behavior. Examples of studies that have used live fish, mirror images, dummies (i.e. models), or video playback as stimuli to investigate fish behavior are described and discussed. These examples represent a diversity of functional categories of behavior exhibited by fishes, including aggression, courtship, aggregation, or schooling behavior, parent–offspring, predator–prey, and cleaner–host interactions. The specific techniques that fish biologists have used to control or manipulate body shape, size, posture, morphological structures, color, marking patterns, or movement are systematically discussed, and the importance of each of these visual features to fish behavior is documented through examples. Studies that have used these techniques to investigate the interaction between visual and nonvisual cues are also considered. Each section encompassing a general experimental approach ends with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of that approach for studying fish behavior.

dummies models mirrors video playback visual stimuli 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. Rowland
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, and Center for the Integrative Study of Animal BehaviorIndiana UniversityBloomingtonU.S.A. (e-mail

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