Neotropical Ichthyology (2019-03-01)

Coordinated hunting behaviors of mixed-species groups of piscivores and associated species at Isla del Coco National Park (Eastern Tropical Pacific)

  • Peter J. Auster,
  • Jorge Cortés,
  • Juan José Alvarado,
  • Andrés Beita-Jiménez

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 17, no. 1


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ABSTRACT Studies of mixed-species groups of animals can reveal emergent complexities of collective behaviors. In this study we collected data on mixed-species hunting groups composed primarily of piscivorous fishes (species composition, abundance, behavioral interactions) and used both multivariate and network analyses to quantify pair-wise and guild level behavioral relationships. Our results indicate that such collective behaviors exhibit consistent patterns of associations (33 species with 282 pair-wise links within the observed network) with 10 dominant species accounting for 60% of pair-wise interactions. Species richness within groups varied (mean = 2.4, range 2-6 species) as did group size (mean = 8.1 individuals, range 2-80). Mixed-species groups, in general, were composed of species representing morphologically diverse forms that appeared to enhance access to shelter sites and implement diverse strategies for prey capture. It is noteworthy that the composition of groups did not reflect the relative abundances of their component species within the overall community of fishes, suggesting that group membership was an elective choice. The identification of these patterns, assuming they are persistent features of these communities, can be used as a foundation for studies to assess dynamics of mixed-species relationships, rates of predator success based on group membership, demographic consequences, and responses to variations in habitat attributes and associated prey resources. Such information could be used to interpret the nature of multispecies interactions within predator communities and potentially aid in conservation and management.