MAR 26, 2018 04:23 AM PDT

These Fish Acquire More Prey Through Teamwork

New research published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology this month by researchers from the Switzerland-based University of Bern sheds new light on a somewhat unusual behavior displayed by a fish species found only in Zambia’s Lake Tanganyika.

Image Credit: Hirokazu Tanaka

Neolamprologus obscurus works cooperatively with other fish of its kind to excavate stones at the bottom of the lake for shelter. But as it would seem, these shelters do more than just protect the fish from predators; they also increase prey abundance for the fish themselves.

Neolamprologus obscurus exhibits a particular taste for the shrimp that reside within the lake. Ironically, these shrimp attempt to avoid predation by swimming into the fish-built shelters, but the plan backfires. The shrimp suddenly find themselves face-to-face with their natural predator.

Citing the study, this is the first-known observation of teamwork-based prey acquisition in a fish species to date.

“The function of these excavated cavities is much like that of the webs of social spiders, which live in groups and share the trapped prey among group members,” explained study lead author Hirokazu Tanaka from the University of Bern.

Related: These fish incubate their eggs with the help of hydrothermal vents

The curious researchers set out to learn more about the underwater cavities, including how big they were and whether it correlated in any way with prey abundance. The team put on its scuba gear and deployed artificial shelters of various sizes to see how they’d perform. They also analyzed the stomach contents of the fish that used them.

After about a week of experimenting, the team noticed two things: 1) larger shelters yielded more shrimp, and 2) when more helper fish were working together to maintain the artificial shelters and prevent sand from clogging them up, more shrimp could gather inside of them.

“Helpers in Neolamprologus obscurus extend and maintain the excavated cavities, and by doing so, contribute to an increase in food abundance inside the territory of breeding females,” Tanaka added.

“Fish living in groups may be able to increase and maintain considerably larger excavated cavities per capita compared to solitary living fish. Consequently, group living enables Neolamprologus obscurus to efficiently increase the prey abundance in their territory. This increases the body condition and future reproductive success of breeders and/or helpers.”

Related: Are the chemicals we flush down our toilets resulting in more transgender fish?

Additional research could reveal whether any other fish species cooperate in comparable ways to obtain higher volumes of prey. It should be interesting to see what researchers might find in the future.

Source: Popular Science, Springer

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 10, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 10, 2018
Does the Weather Impact Your Likelihood of Being Bitten by a Rattlesnake?
Venomous snakes, especially rattlesnakes, sport a somewhat salty reputation for biting humans when threatened in their natural habitat. Another frequently-...
SEP 12, 2018
Health & Medicine
SEP 12, 2018
Can This Exotic Fruit Prevent Obesity?
Not a week goes by that there isn’t a new superfood or some exotic fruit or spice that can curb your appetite, burn fat while you sleep, and boost en...
SEP 18, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 18, 2018
Study Investigates Why People Like Bees and Dislike Wasps
Bees and wasps share a lot in common; the clear majority of both sport the familiar black and yellow color scheme, retain unpleasant stingers for self-defe...
NOV 07, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 07, 2018
Why Are Fruit Flies Attracted to Rotting Fruit Smell?
Fruit flies are the staple pests in the kitchen during summer. As much as these unwelcomed guests enjoy sucking up sugary juice, they are actually more att...
NOV 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 08, 2018
Ancient Animal Provides a New Window Into Tissue Cohesion
Trichoplax adhaerens has no muscles, neurons, or defined shape but still makes coordinated movement....
NOV 12, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 12, 2018
Researchers Link Sunfish Brain Size to Specific Habitats
To most people, a specific fish species would be the same whether it was found at the shoreline or in the middle of the ocean. But according to research pu...
Loading Comments...