Prior residency and social experience in contests between similar-sized juvenile black Midas cichlids, Amphilophus astorquii

Kapil Mandrekar and Ronald G. Oldfield

aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, pp. 141-148, Volume 14, Issue 3 – 10 July 2008


The possible roles of chemical cues and a 3-D structure in eliciting a prior residency effect in juvenile black Midas cichlids, Amphilophus astorquii, were tested under laboratory conditions. The effect of recent social interaction on the outcome of contests was also tested. Fish with a clay pot in their pre-test tanks defeated opponents without such prior experience when test tanks contained an identical pot. Experience in a small group of conspecifics had no significant effect on contest outcome, although fish that held lower size ranks tended to lose contests. The subjects’ chemical cues did not result in a prior residency effect. Interestingly, juvenile Amphilophus cichlids are not typically aggressive in their natural environment. The current results demonstrate that, despite this, they are sufficiently plastic to behave aggressively when resources are made to be defensible by artificially reducing attack distance and number of competitors. In addition, the ability to modify aggressive behavior according to prior experience demonstrates a further degree of plasticity. This suggests that complex behavioral plasticity relating to aggression may generally be of such high adaptive value that it might occur in species for which it might seem to typically have little utility.

Full Text | PDF (196 KB)


BAERENDS, G. P. & BAERENDS-VAN ROON, J. M. 1950. An introduction to the study of the ethology of cichlid fishes. Behaviour Supplement 1: 1-242.

BARLOW, G.W. 1976. The Midas cichlid in Nicaragua. In: Investigations of the ichthyofauna of Nicaraguan lakes (Ed. T. B. Thorson): 333–358. School of Life Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

BARLOW, G. W. 1983. Do gold Midas cichlid fish win fights because of their color, or because they lack normal coloration? A logistic solution. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 13: 197-204.

BARLOW, G.W. 1993. The puzzling paucity of feeding territories among freshwater fishes. Marine Behavior and Physiology 23: 155-174.

BARLOW, G. W. 2000. The cichlid fishes, nature’s grand experiment in evolution. Perseus, Cambridge, Massachusetts. XVI+335 pp.

BARLOW, G. W., BAUER, D. H., & MCKAYE, K. R. 1975. A comparison of feeding, spacing, and aggression in color morphs of the Midas cichlid I, food continuously present. Behaviour 54: 72-96.

BARLOW, G. W., ROGERS, W., & FRALEY, N. 1986. Do Midas cichlids win through prowess or daring? It depends. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 19: 1-8.

BARNETT, C. 1977. Chemical recognition of the mother by the young of the cichlid fish, Cichlasoma citrinellum. Journal of Chemical Ecology 3: 461-466.

BEACHAM, J. L. & NEWMAN, J. A. 1987. Social experience and the formation of dominance relationships in the pumpkinseed sunfish, Lepomis gibbosus. Animal Behaviour 35: 1560-1563.

BEAUGRAND, J. P. & ZAYAN, R. 1985. An experimental model of aggressive dominance in Xiphophorus helleri (Pisces, Poeciliidae). Behavioural Processes 10: 1-52.

BRONSTEIN, P. M. 1983. Agonistic sequences and the assessment of opponents in male Betta splendens. American Journal of Psychology 96: 163-177.

BRONSTEIN, P. M. 1985. Prior-residence effect in Betta splendens. Journal of Comparative Psychology 99: 56-59.

CHELLAPPA, S., YAMAMOTO, M. E., CACHO, M. S. R. F. & HUNTINGFORD, F. A. 1999. Prior residence, body size, and the dynamics of territorial disputes between male freshwater angelfish. Journal of Fish Biology 55: 1163-1170.

FIGLER, M. H. & EINHORN, D. M. 1983. The territorial prior residence effect in convict cichlids (Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum Günther) – temporal aspects of establishment and retention, and proximate mechanisms. Behaviour 85: 157-183.

FRANCIS, R. C. 1983. Experimental effects on agonistic behavior in the paradise fish, Macropodus opercularis. Behaviour 85: 292-313.

GRANT, J. W. A. 1993. Whether or not to defend? The influence of resource distribution. Marine Behavior and Physiology 22: 137-153.

GRANT, J. W. A. 1997. Territoriality. In: Behavioural ecology of teleost fishes. (Ed. J. J. Godin): 81-103. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

HUNTINGFORD, F. A. & TURNER, A. K. 1987. Animal conflict. Chapman and Hall, London, UK. 480 pp.

JOHNSSON, J. I. & FORSER, A. 2002. Residence duration influences the outcome of territorial conflicts in brown trout (Salmo trutta). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 51: 282-286.

JOHNSSON, J. I., NÖBBELIN, F. & BOHLIN, T. 1999. Territorial competition among wild brown trout fry: effects of ownership and body size. Journal of Fish Biology 54: 469-472.

JOHNSSON, J. I., CARLSSON, M. & SUNDSTRÖM, L. F. 2000. Habitat preference increases territorial defence in brown trout (Salmo trutta). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiolog, 48: 373-377.

KALLEBERG, E. H. 1958. Observations in a stream tank of territoriality and competition in juvenile salmon and trout. Report of the Institute of Freshwater Research, Drottningholm 39: 55-98.

MAYNARD SMITH, J. & PARKER, G. 1976. The logic of asymmetric contests. Animal Behaviour 24: 159-175.

MCDONALD, A. L., HEIMSTRA, N. W. & DAMKOT, D. K. 1968. Social modification of agonstic behaviour in fish. Animal Behaviour 16: 437-441.

MCKAYE, K. R. & BARLOW, G. W. 1976. Chemical recognition of young by the Midas cichlid, Cichlasoma citrinellum. Copeia 1976: 276-282.

MYRBERG, A. A. JR. 1975. The role of chemical and visual stimuli in the preferential discrimination of young by the cichlid fish Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum (Günther). Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 37: 274-297.

NIJMAN, V. & HEUTS, B. A. 2000. Effect of environmental enrichment upon resource holding power in fish in prior residence situations. Behavioural Processes 49: 77-83.

OLDFIELD, R. G. 2005. Cichlid sex determination research at the University of Michigan. Buntbarsche Bulletin 229: 14-23.

OLDFIELD, R. G. 2007. The effects of behavioral interaction on sex determination in the Midas cichlid. 233 pp. PhD thesis, University of Michigan.

OLDFIELD, R. G., MCCRARY, J. & MCKAYE, K. R. 2006. Habitat use, social behavior, and female and male size distributions of juvenile Midas cichlids, Amphilophus cf. citrinellus, in Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. Caribbean Journal of Science 42: 197-207.

PLENDERLEITH, M., VAN OOSTERHOUT, C., ROBINSON, R. L. &TURNER, G. F. 2005. Female preference for conspecific males based on olfactory cues in a LakeMalawi cichlid fish. Biology Letters 1: 411-414.

RIECHERT, S. E. 1979. Games spiders play II, resource assessment strategies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 6: 121-128.

STAUFFER, J. R. JR.,MCCRARY, J. K. & BLACK, K. E. 2008. Three new species of cichlid fishes (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. Proceedings of the Biological Society ofWashington 121: 117-129.

TURNER, G. F. 1994. The fighting tactics of male mouthbrooding cichlids: the effects of size and residency. Animal Behaviour, 47: 655-662.

ZAR, J. H. 1999. Biostatistical analysis, 4th ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 931 pp. 

Previous post

Cirrhilabrus beauperryi, a new wrasse (Pisces: Labridae) from Melanesia

Next post

Xyrichtys pastellus, a new razorfish from the southwest Pacific, with discussion of the related X. sciistius and X. woodi

The Author



No Comment

Leave a reply