Call it ‘fatal distraction’

Lamprologus ocellatus. Image from

In the world of cichlids, there are many species that simultaneously occupy predator and prey roles. That means paying attention to what’s going on around you is important. You can get eaten while you’re looking for food. But searching for food is only one predation distraction in the life of a cichlid. They also engage in mating, brood protection, territory defense, fighting, and other activities. Thus being completely distracted could be fatal if you’re a cichlid.

So how do species negotiate the effort they expend doing any of the activities above versus expended effort avoiding being eaten? A Japanese researcher recently set out to  answer that question, sort of. Experimenting with the ever popular shell dwelling, dwarf species Lamprologus ocellatus from Lake Tanganyika, Kazutaka Ota from Osaka City University actually sought to determine if vigilance during interspecific aggression decreased during intraspecific aggression via predation. In other words, how much effort was expended by male ocellatus fighting with other ocellatus versus effort spent looking out for predators.

Reference: Ota, Kazutaka. “Fight, fatigue, and flight: narrowing of attention to a threat compensates for
decreased anti-predator vigilance.” J Experimental Biology. 2018.

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