Variation of territory size and defense behavior in breeding pairs of the endemic Lake Tanganyika cichlid fish Variabilichromis moorii

Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 205)


Lake Tanganyika harbors the ecologically, morphologically, and behaviorally most diverse species flock of cichlid fishes. It is comprised by substrate breeding and mouthbrooding species, most of which live in littoral habitats. Species communities are characterized by complex behavioral and trophic interactions, resulting in a dense pattern of partially overlapping territories, depending on the degree of ecological distinctness. We studied territorial behavior of breeding pairs in a substrate breeding species, with respect to territory size and defense behavior. The study species Variabilichromis moorii belongs to the tribe Lamprologini, the most species rich tribe of cichlids in Lake Tanganyika. Our study shows that breeding pairs of V. moorii can have highly complex territories, in which both parents hold separate sub-territories which are shifted slightly according to the movements of the fry, but the outer borders are conjointly defended. The size of the total defended territory varied from <1 to almost 4 m2, averaging at about 2 m2. Depending on presence of competitors or fry-predators evoking agonistic interactions, the territory size varied quite substantially over the day. Attack rates and size of the defended area decreased with water depth. Agonistic behavior was observed toward heterospecifics as well as conspecifics, with hetero-specific attacks mostly concerning territorial neighbors and potential fry-predators in about equal frequencies.


Lamprologini Ecology Fish community Territorial behavior Eastern Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of GrazGrazAustria
  2. 2.Department of Research and Specialist Services, Fisheries Research DivisionMinistry of Agriculture, Food and FisheriesMpulunguZambia

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