Ecology and Evolution
competition, ecophysiology, foraging, group living, predator avoidance, teleost fish
Although individuals within social groups experience reduced predation risk and find food patches more consistently, there can be competition for food among groupmates. Individuals with a higher standard metabolic rate (SMR) may be less social, to prioritize food acquisition over defense, while a greater maximum metabolic rate (MMR) may modulate sociability through increased competitive ability. Therefore, in theory, individuals with a higher SMR may prefer smaller groups and those with greater MMR may prefer larger groups. We examined links among metabolic phenotype, sociability, and choice of group size in the redbelly yellowtail fusilier Caesio cuning. Individuals were exposed to three association tests: (a) a choice between two fish or zero fish; (b) a choice between five fish or zero fish; and (c) a choice between two fish and five fish. The first two tests quantified sociability while the third measured relative group size choice. Although there was no link between SMR and sociability, fish with a higher MMR were more social than those individuals with a lower MMR. While no correlation was found between MMR and group size choice, there was weak evidence that, if anything, individuals with a higher SMR preferred larger groups, contrary to our hypothesis. As C. cuning is an active fish that spends a large proportion of time operating above SMR, this result could suggest that the links between sociability and SMR may shift depending on a species’ routine behavior. Links between sociability and MMR may arise if competitive ability allows individuals to obtain resources within groups. Although metabolic traits had no significant influence on group size choice, variation in food availability or predation risk could alter the effects of metabolism on group size choice.
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Shaun S. Killen, Lauren E. Nadler, Kathryn Grazioso, Amy Cox, and Mark I. McCormick. 2021. The effect of metabolic phenotype on sociability and social group size preference in a coral reef fish .Ecology and Evolution : 1 -10. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/1181.