Aggression towards shared enemies by heterospecific and conspecific cichlid fish neighbours

Topi K. Lehtonen

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Successful territory defence is a prerequisite for reproduction across many taxa, and often highly sensitive to the actions of territorial neighbours. Nevertheless, to date, assessments of the significance of the behaviour of heterospecific neighbours have been infrequent and taxonomically restricted. In this field study, I examined the importance of both heterospecific and conspecific neighbours in a biparental fish, the convict cichlid, Amatitlania siquia. This was done by assessing the colonisation rates of vacant territories, the rates of aggression by the territory holders, and the overall rates of aggression towards intruders, in treatments that controlled the proximity of both neighbour types. Convict cichlid pairs colonised vacant nesting resources (territory locations) at similar rates independent of the proximity of heterospecific (moga, Hypsophrys nicaraguensis) or conspecific neighbours. However, a model of sympatric cichlid intruder was subjected to considerably higher overall levels of aggression when mogas were nearby. In contrast, the proximity of conspecifics did not have a significant effect on the overall aggression towards the intruder. These results suggest that previously demonstrated higher survival of convict cichlid broods in close proximity of mogas may be driven by aggression towards shared enemies. No conclusive evidence was found regarding whether mogas also influence convict cichlids’ investment into anti-intruder aggression: the results show a marginally non-significant trend, and a moderately large effect size, to the direction of a lower investment in mogas’, but not conspecifics’, proximity. More generally, heterospecific neighbours may provide protective benefits in a wider range of ecological settings than commonly considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-368
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Aggression
  • Competition
  • Dear enemy
  • Heterospecific facilitation
  • Species coexistence

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