Social behavioUr of aquatic organismS
Aquatic organisms are great model systems to investigate the behavioural ecology of sociality under standardised lab conditions. Recently I was given the chance to gain experience working with fish and crustaceans in the following projects:
Effect of Familiarity on Kin Recognition
During my time in Vienna I got involved in kin recognition experiments using the three-spined stickleback as model organisms. Many species use their ability to discriminate between related and unrelated individuals in a social context. Both familiarity and phenotype matching are known mechanisms in such kin recognition. To disentangle these two phenomena, we conducted shoaling preference trials where a focal fish could choose between groups differing in their degree of relatedness and familiarity. The results showed that familiarity does not impair sticklebacks' ability to recognise kin, or overrule recognition based on phenotype matching.
Oddity effect and social decisions
I also had the opportunity to work on factors mediating swarming behaviour in different Daphnia species. There are several explanations of how group living enhances individual’s fitness. One is the increased chance of surviving a predator attack, due to dilution effects or predator confusion. Predators might overcome such confusion effects by targeting on individuals that differ in their appearance from the other group members, a phenomenon called “oddity effect”. We tested how the oddity effect influences predation risk and social preferences in two Daphnia species under controlled lab conditions. The exciting results will be coming soon!