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Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 76, Issue 2–4, pp 265–281 | Cite as

Cooperative Breeding in the Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Julidochromis ornatus

  • Dik Heg
  • Zina Bachar
Original Paper

Abstract

Cooperative breeding has been described for several cichlids from the genus Julidochromis (Perciformes: Cichlidae) under laboratory conditions, but field evidence is scarce. Here we describe the breeding system of the cichlid Julidochromis ornatus (Boulenger) in Lake Tanganyika (Zambia). Groups defended a breeding shelter under a large flat stone. Smaller group members stayed and fed under or close to the stone, actively guarded by the larger group members. Six out of 28 groups were newly established by breeders, joined by subordinates from a large pool of independent fish (comprising 50–70% of the total population), and four groups were seen to dissolve during a total of 77 observation days. Breeding groups consisted of a large breeding male and female with zero to five smaller subordinates (average 2). Larger breeders and subordinates were found in larger groups. All group members participated in territory defence and -maintenance, but the breeders were only present at the shelter 48% of the time, in contrast to the subordinates which guarded the breeding shelter 94% of the time. Smaller group members showed submissive behaviours to larger group members. We conclude subordinates in J. ornatus are helpers, but we did not find evidence that helpers increased the group’s current reproductive success. Personal observations combined with a literature review revealed at least 19 species of Lake Tanganyika cichlids show evidence of cooperative breeding, entirely confined to the substrate breeding tribe of the Lamprologini (24% of 80 species in total): 2 Chalinochromis spp., 5 Julidochromis spp., 12 Neolamprologus spp. More effort should be put into detecting cooperative breeding in American and Asian substrate breeding cichlid species.

Key words

Reproductive success Reproductive behaviour Social behaviour Helping behaviour Group size 

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Notes

Acknowledgments

We express our deepest gratitude to C. Kapasa, H. Phiri, R. Shapola, L. Makasa, D. Sinyinza and C. Lukwesa from the Zambia Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries for their continuous support of our project. We thank the Hasli crew, and the members of the Lake Tanganyika Diving Expedition 2003 for their assistance. We are grateful to R. Eggler, S. Maurer and P. Stettler for co-organising the expedition. We thank M. Aibara, N. Duftner, M. Kohda, S. Koblmüller, K. Ota, C. Sturmbauer, M. Taborsky, and particularly H. Büscher for their lively input in the project and discussions of cichlid phylogeny. We thank Marcel Häsler, Ralph Bergmüller and the anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. The project was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF grant 3100–064396 to Michael Taborsky). D.H. is supported by SNF grant 3100A0–108473.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioural Ecology, Zoological InstituteUniversity of BernHinterkappelenSwitzerland

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