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Coordinated vigilance provides evidence for direct reciprocity in coral reef fishes
Brandl, S.J.; Bellwood, D.R. (2015). Coordinated vigilance provides evidence for direct reciprocity in coral reef fishes. NPG Scientific Reports 5(14556): 13 pp.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Brandl, S.J.
  • Bellwood, D.R.

    Reciprocity is frequently assumed to require complex cognitive abilities. Therefore, it has been argued that reciprocity may be restricted to animals that can meet these demands. Here, we provide evidence for the potential presence of direct reciprocity in teleost fishes. We demonstrate that in pairs of coral reef rabbitfishes (f. Siganidae), one fish frequently assumes an upright vigilance position in the water column, while the partner forages in small crevices in the reef substratum. Both behaviours are strongly coordinated and partners regularly alternate their positions, resulting in a balanced distribution of foraging activity. Compared to solitary individuals, fishes in pairs exhibit longer vigilance bouts, suggesting that the help provided to the partner is costly. In turn, fishes in pairs take more consecutive bites and penetrate deeper into crevices than solitary individuals, suggesting that the safety provided by a vigilant partner may outweigh initial costs by increasing foraging efficiency. Thus, the described system appears to meet all of the requirements for direct reciprocity. We argue that the nature of rabbitfish pairs provides favourable conditions for the establishment of direct reciprocity, as continuous interaction with the same partner, simultaneous needs, interdependence, and communication relax the cognitive demands of reciprocal cooperation.

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