Despite the frequency with which mixed-species groups are observed in nature, studies of collective behaviour typically focus on single-species groups. Here, we quantify and compare the patterns of interactions between three fish species, threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), ninespine sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius) and roach (Rutilus rutilus) in both single- and mixed-species shoals in the laboratory. Pilot data confirmed that the three species form both single- and mixed-species shoals in the wild. In our laboratory study, we found that single-species groups were more polarized than mixed-species groups, while single-species groups of threespine sticklebacks and roach were more cohesive than mixed shoals of these species. Furthermore, while there was no difference between the inter-individual distances between threespine and ninespine sticklebacks within mixed-species groups, there was some evidence of segregation by species in mixed groups of threespine sticklebacks and roach. There were differences between treatments in mean pairwise transfer entropy, and in particular we identify species-differences in information use within the mixed-species groups, and, similarly, differences in responses to conspecifics and heterospecifics in mixed-species groups. We speculate that differences in the patterns of interactions between species in mixed-species groups may determine patterns of fission and fusion in such groups.
Cohesion, order and information flow in the collective motion of mixed-species shoals
Ashley J. W. Ward , T. M. Schaerf , A. L. J. Burns , J. T. Lizier , E. Crosato , M. Prokopenko and M. M. Webster
Royal Society Open Science