Observational Learning and Predator Inspection in Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)


Sarah F. Brosnan, Living Links Center, Emory University, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, 954 N. Gatewood Drive, Atlanta, GA, 30329 USA. E-mail: sbrosna@emory.edu


Prior work has demonstrated that, following a predator inspection visit of their own, guppies prefer to associate with individuals who inspected a predator most closely. Based on this work, as well as studies of social learning in the context of mate choice, we predicted that male guppies that observed but did not participate in an inspection trial would subsequently choose to associate with the closer of two inspectors. Our experimental protocol consisted of three treatments: a control test in which an observer watched two fish consecutively, only one of which was exposed to a predator, a sequential test in which an observer watched two fish consecutively, both of which were exposed to the predator, and a social test in which an observer watched two fish inspect simultaneously. We found no preferences by the observer for either of the fish in any of the trials. Our results suggest that direct interaction is a critical component to the development of preferences in male guppies. We discuss our findings in light of game theoretical treatments of cooperation.