Coordinated vigilance provides evidence for direct reciprocity in coral reef fishes

Brandl, Simon J., and Bellwood, David R. (2015) Coordinated vigilance provides evidence for direct reciprocity in coral reef fishes. Scientific Reports, 5. 14556.

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Reciprocity is frequently assumed to require complex cognitive abilities. Therefore, it has been argued that reciprocity may be restricted to animals that can meet these demands. Here, we provide evidence for the potential presence of direct reciprocity in teleost fishes. We demonstrate that in pairs of coral reef rabbitfishes (f. Siganidae), one fish frequently assumes an upright vigilance position in the water column, while the partner forages in small crevices in the reef substratum. Both behaviours are strongly coordinated and partners regularly alternate their positions, resulting in a balanced distribution of foraging activity. Compared to solitary individuals, fishes in pairs exhibit longer vigilance bouts, suggesting that the help provided to the partner is costly. In turn, fishes in pairs take more consecutive bites and penetrate deeper into crevices than solitary individuals, suggesting that the safety provided by a vigilant partner may outweigh initial costs by increasing foraging efficiency. Thus, the described system appears to meet all of the requirements for direct reciprocity. We argue that the nature of rabbitfish pairs provides favourable conditions for the establishment of direct reciprocity, as continuous interaction with the same partner, simultaneous needs, interdependence, and communication relax the cognitive demands of reciprocal cooperation.

Item ID: 44442
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
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Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2016 00:55
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
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