Behaviour 2019
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Title: Does the presence of conspecifics affect neophobia in mosquitofish?
Angela J. Barbosa, Katie E. McGhee. Sewanee: The University of the South, Sewanee, TN, United States

Fear of novelty, or neophobia, can help individuals avoid potentially dangerous situations. Being attentive to group members and their reactions can help naive individuals infer the threat posed by a novel object in order to mount the appropriate response. Here we explored whether a fish’s decision to approach a novel object is affected by whether they had witnessed other fish near the object. Using mosquitofish, we manipulated whether a focal individual initially encountered a novel object surrounded by a group of conspecifics, or whether they initially encountered the novel object alone (without conspecifics). We then measured  the time it took the focal fish to approach the novel object when they encountered it later on their own. We found that initially encountering a novel object with a group of conspecifics reduced neophobia when individuals encounter that object again. Additionally, this tendency did not differ between males and females. Understanding how neophobia is affected by the presence of social groups can help us predict how animals might respond to a changing environment.