Brooding Convicts benefit from Nicaragua cichlids

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Research to be published in the journal Biology Letters has found that Convict cichlid nests do better when situated nearer those of the Nicaragua or macaw cichlid.

The study by Topi Lehtonen, introduced artificial shelters for Convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) to breed in at study sites in Lake Xilo, Nicaragua.

The author placed each nest either within 1 m of, or farther than 2 m from, the border of the nearest occupied Nicaragua cichlid (Hypsophrys unimaculatus, previously known as H. nicaraguensis) territory and then monitored the survival rate of the convict cichlid offspring from each nest.

The study found that survival rate of convict cichlid broods that were within 1 m from the nearest Nicaragua cichlid territory was significantly higher than of the broods in nests that were further away.

The author hypothesized that convict cichlids benefit from an increased effectiveness in avoidance of predation and nest takeovers by nesting close to Niacaragua cichlids.

Nicaragua cichlids seem to behave less aggressively towards their established neighbours than other convict cichlids, which could result in reduced brood mortality due to nest takeovers for their neighbours.

The author also noted that there appears to be interspecific specialization in predator repellence between the two species, with convict cichlids seemingly more agile in chasing away small-sized offspring predators, while large Nicaragua cichlid males are able to attack any fish predator in the lake without being in the immediate risk of being consumed themselves.

For more information, see the paper: Lehtonen, TK (2008) Convict cichlids benefit from close proximity to another species of cichlid fish. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0378