Helper response to experimentally manipulated predation risk in the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher

Heg, Dik; Taborsky, Michael (2010). Helper response to experimentally manipulated predation risk in the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher. PLoS ONE, 5(5), e10784. Lawrence, Kans.: Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0010784

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Background We manipulated predation risk in a field experiment with the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher by releasing no predator, a medium- or a large-sized fish predator inside underwater cages enclosing two to three natural groups. We assessed whether helpers changed their helping behaviour, and whether within-group conflict changed, depending on these treatments, testing three hypotheses: ‘pay-to-stay’ PS, ‘risk avoidance’ RA, or (future) reproductive benefits RB. We also assessed whether helper food intake was reduced under risk, because this might reduce investments in other behaviours to save energy. Methodology/Principal Findings Medium and large helpers fed less under predation risk. Despite this effect helpers invested more in territory defence, but not territory maintenance, under the risk of predation (supporting PS). Experimentally covering only the breeding shelter with sand induced more helper digging under predation risk compared to the control treatment (supporting PS). Aggression towards the introduced predator did not differ between the two predator treatments and increased with group member size and group size (supporting PS and RA). Large helpers increased their help ratio (helping effort/breeder aggression received, ‘punishment’ by the dominant pair in the group) in the predation treatments compared to the control treatment, suggesting they were more willing to PS. Medium helpers did not show such effects. Large helpers also showed a higher submission ratio (submission/ breeder aggression received) in all treatments, compared to the medium helpers (supporting PS). Conclusions/Significance We conclude that predation risk reduces helper food intake, but despite this effect, helpers were more willing to support the breeders, supporting PS. Effects of breeder punishment suggests that PS might be more important for large compared to the medium helpers. Evidence for RA was also detected. Finally, the results were inconsistent with RB.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Behavioural Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Taborsky, Michael




Public Library of Science




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:17

Last Modified:

06 Oct 2015 18:31

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:




URI: (FactScience: 210043)

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