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The physiological effects of social status in the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher

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The physiological effects of social rank were examined in three different experiments with Neolamprologus pulcher a cooperatively breeding cichlid, endemic to Lake Tanganyika, East Africa. The effects of rank on physiology between pairs of dominant and subordinate size‐matched fish (experiment 1) and among groups of four size‐matched fish (experiment 2) were examined. A third experiment mimicked the natural social structure in the wild; pairs were observed with other group members including breeders. The effect of social position was investigated on growth rates, liver concentrations of adenosine triphospate (ATP), lipids, proteins, creatine phosphate (CrP), glucose and glycogen as well as plasma cortisol. In naturalistic group settings, dominants displayed higher levels of liver protein and plasma cortisol. In the absence of breeders, dominant individuals (of helper pairs) had higher liver glycogen levels and dominant fish (held in groups of four) grew most. These results support previous cooperatively breeding mammal studies and suggest that dominant individuals experience higher cortisol levels as well as higher growth rates.
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Keywords: Neolamprologus pulcher; dominance; energy; growth; helpers

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4K1, Canada and 2: Department of Biological Sciences, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH, U.K.

Publication date: 2004-10-01

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