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The effect of temporally variable environmental stimuli and group size on emergence behavior

Hansen, Matthew J.; Morrell, Lesley; Ward, Ashley J.W.


Matthew J. Hansen

Ashley J.W. Ward


How animals trade-off food availability and predation threats is a strong determinant of animal activity and behavior; however, the majority of work on this topic has been on individual animals, despite the modulating effect the presence of conspecifics can have on both foraging and predation risk. Although these environmental factors (food and predation threat) vary spatially within habitats, they also vary temporally, and in marine habitats, this can be determined by not only the diel cycle but also the tidal cycle. Humbug damselfish, Dascyllus aruanus, live in small groups of unrelated individuals within and around branching coral heads, which they collectively withdraw into to escape a predation threat. In this study, we measured the proportion of individuals in the colony that were outside the coral head before and after they were scared by a fright stimulus and compared the responses at high tide (HT) and low tide (LT). We found that a greater proportion of the shoal emerged after the fright stimulus at HT and in larger groups than at LT or in smaller groups. We also quantified the pattern of emergence over time and discovered the rate of emergence was faster in larger shoals as time progressed. We show that shoals of fish change their behavioral response to a predation threat in accordance with the tide, exemplifying how temporally variable environmental factors can shape group movement decisions.


Hansen, M. J., Morrell, L., & Ward, A. J. (2016). The effect of temporally variable environmental stimuli and group size on emergence behavior. Behavioral ecology, 27(3), 939-945.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 12, 2015
Online Publication Date Jan 22, 2016
Publication Date 2016
Deposit Date Jan 25, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Behavioral ecology
Print ISSN 1045-2249
Electronic ISSN 1465-7279
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 939-945
Keywords Dascyllus aruanus
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Behavioral ecology, 2016, v.27, issue 3.


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