Behaviour 2019
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Exploring cognitive flexibility across Alternative Reproductive Tactics in a wild living fish
Susan Marsh-Rollo1,2, Danielle Liao2, Matthew Kustra1, Kelly A Stiver3, Jennifer Hellmann4, Molly Cummings5, Jurek Kolasa2, Suzanne H Alonzo1. 1University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, United States; 2McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; 3Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States; 4University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, United States; 5University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States

Comprehending the underlying mechanisms and evolution of cognition in animals has been furthered by research on numerical abilities, social behaviour, and personalities in fishes. To date, research on fish cognition has been conducted mainly on domesticated or lab based strains of a few freshwater fish species. Our current project examines fish cognition in the context of behavioural plasticity/flexibility in Symphodus ocellatus, a wild living fish with three male phenotypes or alternative reproductive tactics (ART’s). ART’s in this species are thought to occur as part of the male life history pathway rather than by genetic determination. We developed a series of lab-based behavioral assays which can then be associated with underwater observations of the social behaviours that occur during the spawning cycle of S. ocellatus under natural conditions in the Mediterranean Sea. We’ll discuss preliminary results from a lab-based forced choice assay for familiar versus unfamiliar conspecific females. Ongoing analyses will compare individual performance on the lab-based assays with their behaviour at actively spawning nests under natural conditions observed in the wild.