Similar-smelling chemical cues could explain why some animals choose to live together with other species, according to new research from scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK.
(From ScienceDaily) — Published in the scientific journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, the research found that for some fish it makes more sense to swim around with those that share their taste in food — and smell similar in the process — than to shoal with members of their own species. The findings highlight the role that chemical cues might play in creating familiarity and group bonds between members of different species.
Led by Tanja Kleinhappel, a PhD researcher in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, the study is the first to group members of different free swimming shoals of fish together to investigate how bonds between different species form.
The research team caught a number of three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and nine-spined sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) from local rivers and streams. In nature, these two species live side by side, yet individuals are also known to shoal together. The Lincoln team carefully planned what individual fish ate, and the groups into which they were placed.
Some groups contained members of both species that ate different types of food. In such cases, three-spined sticklebacks were most likely to associate with other fish with which they shared a diet — irrespective of the species their new-found friends belonged to. When all individuals in a group were fed on the same diet, the three-spined sticklebacks showed no particular preference to be with members of their own species.
Read the full article here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160322100513.htm