Lateralization in response to social stimuli in a cooperatively breeding cichlid fish
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Cerebral lateralization, an evolutionarily ancient and widespread phenomenon among vertebrates, is thought to bestow cognitive advantages. The advantages of lateralization at the individual-level do not necessarily require that the entire population share the same pattern of lateralization. In fact, directional bias in lateralization may lead to behavioural predictability and enhanced predator success or prey evasion. Recent theory has suggested that population-level lateralization may be favored if individuals are better able to perform coordinated behaviours, providing a distinct advantage in cooperative contexts. Here we test whether the highly social, cooperatively breeding cichlid fish Neolamprologus pulcher shows lateralized responses to a social stimulus. We found population-level biases in males; on average male N. pulcher use their right eye/left hemisphere to view their mirror image. Individual females had a preferred hemisphere, but these preferences appeared not to be directionally aligned among females. We discuss these results in the context of coordinated social behaviour and suggest future research directions.
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