Sociable animals will make compromises to remain with their group

June 13, 2018, University of Glasgow
Credit: University of Glasgow

Fish will forego their own temperature preferences in order to remain part of a group, according to a new study.

The research, led by the University of Glasgow and published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that an individual was more likely to associate with a group of fish if they were located in waters closer to the individual's own preferred temperature.

The study also found that, at colder temperatures, fish that were more social deviated most strongly from their preferred temperature in order to spend more time within a group.

Group living is widespread among species because it helps find food, avoid predators and reproduce. This is despite animals within a group each having their own environmental preferences and requirements.

However, until now it has been largely unknown whether individuals sacrifice exposure to their own preferred – or optimal – environmental conditions so that they can remain part of a social group.

For the study, the scientists studied three-spined sticklebacks, a shoaling fish species that is frequently used as a model for studying collective behaviour.

They found individual fish varied widely in preferred temperature when tested in isolation, but when presented with a choice of a warm or cold thermal regime in the presence of a social group, fish spent more time with the group if it was close to their own individually preferred temperature.

Credit: University of Glasgow

The study also discovered individuals with an intrinsically higher energetic demand are less social.

Dr. Shaun Killen, from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: "Our study shows that individuals may be making compromises to be part of the group, and exposure to non-preferred temperature is a cost of group living."

Ben Cooper, lead author of the study, added: "Factors such as temperature could strongly affect dynamics such as leadership and cohesion in animal social groups, due to the reduced tendency to engage with a social group when there is a large difference between the group and the individual's preference."

The paper, "Individual variation in the compromise between membership and exposure to preferred temperatures," is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Explore further: Conformity trumps riskiness in social fish

More information: B. Cooper et al. Individual variation in the compromise between social group membership and exposure to preferred temperatures, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0884

Related Stories

Carpe solis – sunbathing fish defy the laws of nature

June 1, 2018

That sunbathing may require a refreshing swim to avoid overheating is a vacation experience shared by many. It has been assumed that this cooling effect of water prevents fish from reaping the rewards of sunbathing available ...

Individuality drives collective behavior of schooling fish

September 7, 2017

New research sheds light on how "animal personalities" - inter-individual differences in animal behaviour - can drive the collective behaviour and functioning of animal groups such as schools of fish, including their cohesion, ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.