I’m pleased to announce the recent publication of a study on the cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher resulted from a past collaboration with the University of Bern.


Watve M, Prati S, Taborsky B. 2019Simulating more realistic predation threat using attack playbacksPeerJ 7:e8149 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.8149


Use of virtual proxies of live animals are rapidly gaining ground in studies of animal behaviour. Such proxies help to reduce the number of live experimental animals needed to stimulate the behaviour of experimental individuals and to increase standardisation. However, using too simplistic proxies may fail to induce a desired effect and/or lead to quick habituation. For instance, in a predation context, prey often employ multimodal cues to detect predators or use specific aspects of predator behaviour to assess threat. In a live interaction, predator and prey often show behaviours directed towards each other, which are absent in virtual proxies. Here we compared the effectiveness of chemical and visual predator cues in the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher, a species in which predation pressure has been the evolutionary driver of its sociality. We created playbacks of predators simulating an attack and tested their effectiveness in comparison to a playback showing regular activity and to a live predator. We further compared the effectiveness of predator odour and conspecific skin extracts on behaviours directed towards a predator playback. Regular playbacks of calmly swimming predators were less effective than live predators in stimulating a focal individual’s aggression and attention. However, playbacks mimicking an attacking predator induced responses much like a live predator. Chemical cues did not affect predator directed behaviour.