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Foraging guppies can compensate for low-light conditions, but not via a sensory switch

Kimbell, Helen; Chapman, Ben; Dobbinson, Khia; Morrell, Lesley


Helen Kimbell

Ben Chapman

Khia Dobbinson


Animals can adapt to changes in their environment through behavioural or developmental plasticity, but studies of these responses tend to focus on either short-term exposure of adults to the changed conditions, or long-term exposure of juveniles. Juvenile guppies Poecilia reticulata reared in low light environments have previously been shown to make a sensory switch to using olfactory, rather than visual, cues in foraging. It is not clear whether this compensatory sensory plasticity is limited to juveniles, or whether longer-term exposure allows adults to similarly adapt. We investigated how adult guppies that were exposed to light or dark environments for 2 and 4 weeks responded to visual, olfactory and a combination of both food cues, in both dark and light test environments. We found that after 2 weeks exposure, adult guppies were better able to locate a food cue in light test environments regardless of their exposure environment. After 4 weeks, however, guppies were more successful at locating the food cue in the environment they had been exposed to, suggesting that dark-exposed guppies adapted their behaviour in response to their environment. We found that foraging was most successful when both visual and olfactory cues were available and least successful in the presence of olfactory cues, suggesting that the mechanism behind the change in success for dark-exposed guppies was not due to increased reliance on, or sensory switch to olfactory cues.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2019-03
Print ISSN 0340-5443
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 73
Article Number 32
APA6 Citation Kimbell, H., Chapman, B., Dobbinson, K., & Morrell, L. (2019). Foraging guppies can compensate for low-light conditions, but not via a sensory switch. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 73,
Keywords Sensor plasticity; Environmental change; Foraging behaviour; Compensatory plasticity; Learning
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Copyright Statement
© The Author(s) 2019
Open Access
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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