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Behavioural consequences of sensory plasticity in guppies

Chapman, Ben B.; Morrell, Lesley J.; Tosh, Colin R.; Krause, Jens


Ben B. Chapman

Colin R. Tosh

Jens Krause


Sensory plasticity, whereby individuals compensate for sensory deprivation in one sense by an improvement in the performance of an alternative sense, is a well-documented phenomenon in nature. Despite this, the behavioural and ecological consequences of sensory plasticity have not been addressed. Here we show experimentally that some components (vision and chemoreception) of the sensory system of guppies are developmentally plastic, and that this plasticity has important consequences for foraging behaviour. Guppies reared under low light conditions had a significantly stronger response to chemical food cues encountered in isolation than fish reared at higher light levels. Conversely, they exhibited a weaker response to visual-only cues. When visual and olfactory/gustatory cues were presented together, no difference between the strength of response for fish reared at different light intensities was evident. Our data suggest that guppies can compensate for experience of a visually poor, low light environment via a sensory switch from vision to olfaction/ gustation. This switch from sight to chemoreception may allow individuals to carry out the foraging behaviour that is essential to their survival in a visually poor environment. These considerations are especially important given the increasing frequency of anthropogenic changes to ecosystems. Compensatory phenotypic plasticity as demonstrated by our study may provide a hitherto unconsidered buffer that could allow animals to perform fundamental behaviours in the face of considerable change to the sensory environment. © 2010 The Royal Society.


Chapman, B. B., Morrell, L. J., Tosh, C. R., & Krause, J. (2010). Behavioural consequences of sensory plasticity in guppies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277(1686), 1395-1401.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 7, 2010
Online Publication Date Jan 6, 2010
Publication Date May 7, 2010
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biological sciences
Print ISSN 0962-8452
Electronic ISSN 1471-2970
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 277
Issue 1686
Pages 1395-1401
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Immunology and Microbiology; General Agricultural and Biological Sciences; General Environmental Science; General Medicine
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