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The functional role of sibling aggression and “best of a bad job” strategies in cichlid juveniles

Cite this dataset

Satoh, Shun et al. (2020). The functional role of sibling aggression and “best of a bad job” strategies in cichlid juveniles [Dataset]. Dryad.


Siblings often compete for limited resources such as food provided by their parents. However, although several functions of non-lethal sibling (non-siblicidal) aggression have been proposed, there is currently little empirical evidence for these, apart from food monopolization. Here, we investigated the functions of non-lethal sibling aggression in the biparental-caring territorial herbivorous cichlid Varibilichromis moorii. We found that the juveniles of this species are highly aggressive and that larger juveniles are more aggressive toward their smaller siblings. Larger juveniles feed on algae more frequently than smaller siblings, thereby indicating a dominance hierarchy. Sibling aggression decreased when algae in the nest was experimentally removed. Furthermore, removal of smaller juveniles decreased sibling aggression among the remaining larger juveniles, whereas removal of larger juveniles increased aggression among smaller juveniles. The algal feeding rate of juveniles only increased when larger individuals were removed from the nest. Moreover, larger juveniles attained higher growth rates and remained in natal nests longer than smaller individuals. Our results indicate that sibling aggression may facilitate the monopolization of resources by larger juveniles and extend the parental care period. Interestingly, a small sub-set of juveniles were observed to migrate to other nests. These juveniles were larger than those of the host brood, and their growth rate increased within the new nests. We suggest that subordinate juveniles may disperse from natal nests and sneak into new nests to enhance their rank, which may represent a novel example of a “best of a bad job” strategy associated with sibling competition.


Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Award: 26540070; 26118511; H17J11490