Cichlid Fish

Cooperatively-breeding Cichlids

The cooperatively-breeding East African cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher lives in stable social groups consisting of a dominant breeder pair and subordinate groups members of both sexes and different ages and sizes, which help to raise the offspring produced by the breeders ('helpers'). The social groups are characterized by stable relationships between their members, which recognize each other individually, and by size-dependent division of labour. Helpers often stay for years in a group, before they either disperse into another group or inherit the breeder posiiton in thei natal group.

In our division, we study how adult social behaviour, physiology and cognitive abities are influenced by social and ecological factors these fish experience during their early life, either by own direct interactions with their environment or by way of parental effects. We further aim to understand the costs and benefits of breeders and helpers within social groups, and the rules they use to decide about their social strategies.

The cooperatively breeding cichlid fish Neolamprologus pulcher lives in social groups consisting of a dominant breeder pair and related and unrelated helpers of various sizes and ages. Photo: Dario Josi