Life history and behavioral type in the highly social cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher

Schürch, Roger ; Heg, Dik

In: Behavioral Ecology, 2010, vol. 21, no. 3, p. 588-598

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    Many studies have found that seemingly unconnected behaviors are correlated into behavioral syndromes. These behavioral syndromes may be the consequence of interindividual variation in life-history strategies. Only few studies have investigated the role of behavioral syndromes in cooperatively breeding species, despite the fact that one would expect particular large variation in behavior due to the wealth of life-history decisions a cooperative breeder faces. In a longitudinal study, we repeatedly tested individuals of the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher for exploration, boldness, and aggression and tested whether these behaviors were sex specific; whether they were interrelated; and whether they were connected to growth and to 2 major life-history decisions, helping, and dispersal. In both sexes, explorative behavior was correlated over time, even though after sexual maturity males increased their exploration rate. In both sexes, exploration, boldness, and aggression correlated when mature, and in females, helping behavior was part of the syndrome. No relationships with growth were detected. Helping and dispersal were related to each other in males, whereas females hardly dispersed. We suggest that the differences in the life histories between males and females (male dispersal vs. female philopatry) lead to the differences in behavioral types observed and also to the differences in the stability of the behavioral syndromes between the sexes. The links between dispersal and helping in males and the behavioral types and helping in females highlight the necessity to study multiple traits to understand the evolution and maintenance of variation in cooperative behavior