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Anim Behav. 2015 Jan;99:147-153.

The role of social attraction and its link with boldness in the collective movements of three-spined sticklebacks.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, U.K.
Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, U.K. ; Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin, Germany ; Albrecht Daniel Thaer Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
AnTracks Computer Vision Systems, Mountain View, CA, U.S.A.


Social animals must time and coordinate their behaviour to ensure the benefits of grouping, resulting in collective movements and the potential emergence of leaders and followers. However, individuals often differ consistently from one another in how they cope with their environment, a phenomenon known as animal personality, which may affect how individuals use coordination rules and requiring them to compromise. Here we tracked the movements of pairs of three-spined sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus, separated by a transparent partition that allowed them to observe and interact with one another in a context containing cover. Individuals differed consistently in their tendency to approach their partner's compartment during collective movements. The strength of this social attraction was positively correlated with the behavioural coordination between members of a pair but was negatively correlated with an individual's tendency to lead. Social attraction may form part of a broader behavioural syndrome as it was predicted by the boldness of an individual, measured in isolation prior to the observation of pairs, and by the boldness of the partner. We found that bolder fish, and those paired with bolder partners, tended to approach their partner's compartment less closely. These findings provide important insights into the mechanisms that govern the dynamics and functioning of social groups and the emergence and maintenance of consistent behavioural differences.


animal personality; behavioural syndrome; boldness; collective behaviour; coordination; leadership; sociability; social attraction; three-spined stickleback

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