Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How Fish Punish ‘Queue Jumpers’

28.06.2007
Fish use the threat of punishment to keep would-be jumpers in the mating queue firmly in line and the social order stable, a new study led by Australian marine scientists has found.

Their discovery, which has implications for the whole animal kingdom including humans, has been hailed by some of the world’s leading biologists as a “must read” scientific paper and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B.

Studying small goby fish at Lizard Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Dr Marian Wong and colleagues from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and, the Biological Station of Donana, Spain, have shown the threat of expulsion from the group acts as a powerful deterrent to keep subordinate fish from challenging those more dominant than themselves.

In fact the subordinate fish deliberately diet - or starve themselves - in order to remain smaller than their superiors and so present no threat that might lead to their being cast out, and perishing as a result.

... more about:
»CoECRS »Wong »punishment

“Many animals have social queues in which the smaller members wait their turn before they can mate. We wanted to find out how they maintain stability in a situation where you’d expect there would be a lot of competition,” says Dr Wong.

In the case of the gobies, only the top male and top female mate, and all the other females have to wait their turn in a queue based on their size – the fishy equivalent of the barnyard pecking order.

Dr Wong found that each fish has a size difference of about 5 per cent from the one above and the one below it in the queue. If the difference in size decreases below this threshold, a challenge is on as the junior fish tries to jump the mating queue – and the superior one responds by trying to drive it out of the group.

Her fascinating discovery is that, in order to avoid constant fights and keep the social order stable, the fish seem to accept the threat of punishment – and adjust their own size in order to avoid presenting a challenge to the one above them, she says.

“Social hierarchies are very stable in these fish and in practice challenges and expulsions are extremely rare – probably because expulsion from the group and the coral reef it occupies means almost certain death to the loser.

“It is clear the fish accept the threat of punishment and co-operate as a way of maintaining their social order – and that’s not so very different to how humans and other animals behave.”

Dr Wong said that experimentally it has always proved extremely difficult to demonstrate how higher animals, such as apes, use punishment to control subordinates and discourage anti-social activity because of the difficulty in observing and interpreting their behaviour.

In the case of the gobies the effect is much more apparent because they seek to maintain a particular size ratio relative to the fish above them in the queue, in order not to provoke a conflict.

“The gobies have shed new light on our understanding of how social stability is maintained in animals,” she says.

“While it not be accurate to draw a direct link between fish behaviour and specific human behaviour, it is clear there are general patterns of behaviour which apply to many higher life forms, ourselves included. These help us to understand why we do the things we do.”

The paper entitled “The threat of punishment enforces peaceful cooperation and stabilizes queues in a coral-reef fish” was co-authored with Dr Philip Munday and Professor Geoff Jones of CoECRS and Dr Peter Buston of.the Biological Station of Doñana, Spain. It appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 274.

It has received a high “must read” ranking from the Faculty of 1000 Biology, which consists of leading international biological scientists.

Dr Wong has recently been appointed to a postdoctoral research position at Canada’s McMaster University.

More information:
Dr Marian Wong, CoECRS, ph 07 4781 5350 or 0410 298 997
email: marian.wong1@jcu.edu.au
Dr. Philip Munday, CoECRS and James Cook Uni, ph 07 4781 5341
Email: philip.munday@jcu.edu.au
Professor Geoff Jones, CoECRS and James Cook Uni, 07 4781 4559
Email: Geoffrey.Jones@jcu.edu.au
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, 07 4781 4222

Dr. Marian Wong | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.coralcoe.org.au/

Further reports about: CoECRS Wong punishment

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>