Chabrolles, L., Ben Ammar, I., Fernandez, M.S.A., Boyer, N., Attia, J., Fonseca, P.J., Amorim, M.C.P. & Beauchaud, M. (2017) Appraisal of unimodal cues during agonistic interactions in Maylandia zebra.PeerJ, 5, e3643. DOI:10.7717/peerj.3643 (IF2017 2,118; Q1 Multidisciplinary Sciences)
Communication is essential during social interactions including animal conflicts and it is often a complex process involving multiple sensory channels or modalities. To better understand how different modalities interact during communication, it is fundamental to study the behavioural responses to both the composite multimodal signal and each unimodal component with adequate experimental protocols. Here we test how an African cichlid, which communicates with multiple senses, responds to different sensory stimuli in a social relevant scenario. We tested Maylandia zebra males with isolated chemical (urine or holding water coming both from dominant males), visual (real opponent or video playback) and acoustic (agonistic sounds) cues during agonistic interactions. We showed that (1) these fish relied mostly on the visual modality, showing increased aggressiveness in response to the sight of a real contestant but no responses to urine or agonistic sounds presented separately, (2) video playback in our study did not appear appropriate to test the visual modality and needs more technical prospecting, (3) holding water provoked territorial behaviours and seems to be promising for the investigation into the role of the chemical channel in this species. Our findings suggest that unimodal signals are non-redundant but how different sensory modalities interplay during communication remains largely unknown in fish.