Increased water temperature and turbidity act independently to alter social behavior in guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Imranah Allibhai, Costanza Zanghi*, Martin J How, Christos C Ioannou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in environmental conditions can shift the costs and benefits of aggregation or interfere with the sensory perception of near neighbors. This affects group cohesion with potential impacts on the benefits of collective behavior such as reduced predation risk. Organisms are rarely exposed to one stressor in isolation, yet there are only a few studies exploring the interactions between multiple stressors and their effects on social behavior. Here, we tested the effects of increased water temperature and turbidity on refuge use and three measures of aggregation in guppies (Poecilia reticulata), increasing temperature and turbidity in isolation or in combination. When stressors were elevated in isolation, the distribution of fish within the arena as measured by the index of dispersion became more aggregated at higher temperatures but less aggregated when turbidity was increased. Another measure of cohesion at the global scale, the mean inter-individual distance, also indicated that fish were less aggregated in turbid water. This is likely due to turbidity acting as a visual constraint, as there was no evidence of a change in risk perception as refuge use was not affected by turbidity. Fish decreased refuge use and were closer to their nearest neighbor at higher temperatures. However, the nearest neighbor distance was not affected by turbidity, suggesting that local-scale interactions can be robust to the moderate increase in turbidity used here (5 NTU) compared with other studies that show a decline in shoal cohesion at higher turbidity (>100 NTU). We did not observe any significant interaction terms between the two stressors, indicating no synergistic or antagonistic effects. Our study suggests that the effects of environmental stressors on social behavior may be unpredictable and dependent on the metric used to measure cohesion, highlighting the need for mechanistic studies to link behavior to the physiology and sensory effects of environmental stressors.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9958
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date28 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the UK Research and Innovation, through the GW4 FRESH Centre for Doctoral Training in Freshwater Biosciences and Sustainability, grand code NE/R011524/1 awarded to CZ.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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