University of Oulu

Lehtonen, T.K. Oecologia (2019) 191: 359.

Aggression towards shared enemies by heterospecific and conspecific cichlid fish neighbours

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Author: Lehtonen, Topi K.1,2
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Monash, Australia
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-12-03


Successful territory defence is a prerequisite for reproduction across many taxa, and often highly sensitive to the actions of territorial neighbours. Nevertheless, to date, assessments of the significance of the behaviour of heterospecific neighbours have been infrequent and taxonomically restricted. In this field study, I examined the importance of both heterospecific and conspecific neighbours in a biparental fish, the convict cichlid, Amatitlania siquia. This was done by assessing the colonisation rates of vacant territories, the rates of aggression by the territory holders, and the overall rates of aggression towards intruders, in treatments that controlled the proximity of both neighbour types. Convict cichlid pairs colonised vacant nesting resources (territory locations) at similar rates independent of the proximity of heterospecific (moga, Hypsophrys nicaraguensis) or conspecific neighbours. However, a model of sympatric cichlid intruder was subjected to considerably higher overall levels of aggression when mogas were nearby. In contrast, the proximity of conspecifics did not have a significant effect on the overall aggression towards the intruder. These results suggest that previously demonstrated higher survival of convict cichlid broods in close proximity of mogas may be driven by aggression towards shared enemies. No conclusive evidence was found regarding whether mogas also influence convict cichlids’ investment into anti-intruder aggression: the results show a marginally non-significant trend, and a moderately large effect size, to the direction of a lower investment in mogas’, but not conspecifics’, proximity. More generally, heterospecific neighbours may provide protective benefits in a wider range of ecological settings than commonly considered.

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Series: Oecologia
ISSN: 0029-8549
ISSN-E: 1432-1939
ISSN-L: 0029-8549
Volume: 191
Issue: 2
Pages: 359 - 368
DOI: 10.1007/s00442-019-04483-0
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Oulu including Oulu University Hospital. The planning phase of this research benefitted from the SYNTHESYS ( project, which was financed by European Community Research Infrastructure Action under the FP7 “Capacities” Program.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2019. 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.