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Data from: Benefits of coloniality: communal defence saves anti-predator effort in cooperative breeders


Jungwirth, Arne; Josi, Dario; Walker, Jonas; Taborsky, Michael (2016), Data from: Benefits of coloniality: communal defence saves anti-predator effort in cooperative breeders, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Many anti-predator benefits of group living are predicted to scale with prey density. Nevertheless, evidence for a general density-dependent increase of prey survival is scarce. A possible reason for this discrepancy is the reduction of costly anti-predator behaviour of prey with increasing density, which may offset density-dependent survival gains. Benefits of group living might hence accrue by saved investment into anti-predator behaviours rather than by increased survival rates. 2. Here, we experimentally presented predators in a colony of the cooperatively breeding cichlid fish Neolamprologus pulcher to study density dependence of their anti-predator defences. Predation is a driver of the formation and stability of breeding groups in this species, but potential benefits of coloniality are yet unclear. We hypothesised that increased density of breeding groups would either increase total anti-predator behaviour or allow individuals to reduce their anti-predator effort due to enhanced predator deterrence from neighbours. 3. Confirming predictions from the second hypothesis, our results show that focal groups invested less into anti-predator behaviour at higher densities, while neighbouring groups' behaviour compensated for this reduced effort. This resulted in stable levels of anti-predator behaviours over the entire range of natural densities. Thus, aggregating in colonies allows these fish to save investment in anti-predator behaviour. 4. These results suggest that the formation of both breeding groups and colonies reflects adaptive responses to high predation pressure in this species. Two different levels of sociality seem to be favoured by the same selective force. 5. Our study provides experimental evidence in nature for an important benefit of coloniality that may explain the concomitant existence of different levels of sociality in many highly social taxa.

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Lake Tanganyika