Detection of relatedness in chemical alarm cues by a selfing vertebrate depends on population and the life stage producing the alarm cue

Published: 18 March 2024| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/swdtnp9knr.1
, Katie McGhee


Aquatic prey have impressive abilities to extract information from a variety of chemical cues. For example, they can use the alarm cues released by wounded individuals during a predator attack to learn about predation risk, and they can also distinguish kin from non-kin individuals during interactions. However, it remains unclear whether animals can combine this information on predation risk with kin recognition of the particular individuals under threat. To examine how the relatedness of the individuals in alarm cue affects behaviour we used the self-fertilizing hermaphroditic mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus), in which lineages produce genetically identical offspring through selfing. We explored this in two populations that differ in their level of outcrossing. We measured activity before and after exposure to alarm cue made from individuals (either adults or embryos) from their own lineage or an unrelated lineage from the same population. Fish responded weakly to embryo alarm cues, but tended to reduce their activity more when the alarm cues were from an unrelated lineage compared to alarm cues from their own lineage, particularly in fish from the outcrossing population. In contrast, there was no effect of cue relatedness on the response to adult alarm cues but there was a strong population effect. Specifically, individuals from the outcrossing population tended to react more strongly to alarm cues compared to individuals from the predominantly selfing population. We discuss the potential roles of the major histocompatibility complex in cue detection, differences between adult vs embryo alarm cues in terms of concentration and information, and underlying differences among populations and genetic lineages in their production and detection of chemical cues. Whether this kin recognition offers adaptive benefits or is simply a consequence of being able to detect relatedness in living individuals would be an exciting area for future research.



Sewanee The University of the South


Animal Behavior, Fish, Predation, Kin Recognition