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Consistency of leadership in shoals of mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) in novel and in familiar environments

Burns, Alicia L. J.; Herbert-Read, James E.; Morrell, Lesley J.; Ward, Ashley J. W.


Alicia L. J. Burns

James E. Herbert-Read

Ashley J. W. Ward


Nicolas Chaline


In social animal groups, an individual's spatial position is a major determinant of both predation risk and foraging rewards. Additionally, the occupation of positions in the front of moving groups is generally assumed to correlate with the initiation of group movements. However, whether some individuals are predisposed to consistently occupy certain positions and, in some instances, to consistently lead groups over time is as yet unresolved in many species. Using the mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), we examined the consistency of individuals' spatial positions within a moving group over successive trials. We found that certain individuals consistently occupied front positions in moving groups and also that it was typically these individuals that initiated group decisions. The number of individuals involved in leading the group varied according to the amount of information held by group members, with a greater number of changes in leadership in a novel compared to a relatively familiar environment. Finally, our results show that the occupation of lead positions in moving groups was not explained by characteristics such as dominance, size or sex, suggesting that certain individuals are predisposed to leadership roles. This suggests that being a leader or a follower may to some extent be an intrinsic property of the individual.


Burns, A. L. J., Herbert-Read, J. E., Morrell, L. J., & Ward, A. J. W. (2012). Consistency of leadership in shoals of mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) in novel and in familiar environments. PLoS ONE, 7(5), 1-6.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 10, 2012
Online Publication Date May 8, 2012
Publication Date May 8, 2012
Deposit Date Apr 13, 2015
Publicly Available Date Apr 13, 2015
Journal PLoS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 5
Article Number ARTN e36567
Pages 1-6
Keywords Animal behaviour, Fishes, Decision making, Freshwater fish, Animal sociality, Predation, Baboons, Foraging
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in PLoS ONE, 2012, v.7, issue 5


Published article (613 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2012 Burns et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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