The early social environment affects social competence in a cooperative breeder

Taborsky, B., Arnold, C., Junker, J., & Tschopp, A. (2012). The early social environment affects social competence in a cooperative breeder. Animal Behaviour 83 (4) 1067-1074. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.01.037.

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Social competence is defined as the ability of an animal to optimize the expression of social behavior as a function of the available social information. The social environment encountered early in life can affect the expression of various social behaviours later in life. We investigated whether early social experience can affect social competence. In the cooperatively breeding cichlid "Neolamprologus pulcher", we tested whether individuals reared with older brood-caring conspecifics persistently perform better in a series of tasks (1) simulating different social contexts, (2) assigning individuals different social roles and (3) exposing them to an unknown social situation. Fish that had been reared together with older conspecifics showed more appropriate behaviours both as winners (more aggressive displays) and as losers (more submissive displays) when aggressively competing with peers over a resource, and when trying to be accepted as subordinate group member and prospective brood care helper by an unfamiliar dominant pair (more submissive displays near shelters), a situation they had never encountered before. In both tasks fish that had grown up with older fish were tolerated better by conspecifics than fish reared with same-age siblings only. We detected effects of the early environment on social behaviour in the juvenile and adult stages of the test fish. Our results suggest that growing up in more complex social groups fosters a general social ability (i.e. social competence in N. pulcher that improves their performance across different social roles and contexts, and which may provide fitness benefits.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Aggressive behaviour; Cichlid; Cooperative breeder; Development; Early environment; Neolamprologus pulcher; Social competence; Social experience; Social skill; Submissive behaviour
Research Programs: Evolution and Ecology (EEP)
Bibliographic Reference: Animal Behaviour; 83(4):1067-1074 (April 2012) (Published online 18 February 2012)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:46
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:39

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