Fear of predation drives stable and differentiated social relationships in guppies
Nature Publishing Group
Open access. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Social relationships can have important consequences for fitness in animals. Whilst numerous studies have shown that individuals often join larger groups in response to perceived predation risk (i.e. fear of predation), the importance of predation risk in driving the formation and stability of social relationships within groups has been relatively ignored. We experimentally tested how predation threat influenced fine-scale social network structure using Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata). When perceived predation risk was high, individuals developed stable and more differentiated social ties compared to when perceived risk was low. Intriguingly, social differentiation coincided with shoals being somewhat smaller under high-perceived risk, suggesting a possible conflict between forming stable social relationships and larger social groups. Individuals most at risk of predation (large and bold individuals) showed the most exaggerated responses in several social measures. Taken together, we provide the first experimental evidence that proximate risk of predation can increase the intensity of social relationships and fine-scale social structure in animal populations.
DPC acknowledges funding from the National Environmental Research Council (NE/E001181/1) and Leverhulme Trust (RPG-175) and SKD and DPC acknowledge funding from The Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF – 1323-00105).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Springer Nature via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 7, article 41679