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Coping with strangers: how familiarity and active interactions shape group coordination in
Corydoras aeneus

Riley, Riva J.; Gillie, Elizabeth R.; Horswill, Cat; Johnstone, Rufus A.; Boogert, Neeltje J.; Manica, Andrea


Riva J. Riley

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Beth Gillie
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

Cat Horswill

Rufus A. Johnstone

Neeltje J. Boogert

Andrea Manica


Social groups composed of familiar individuals exhibit better coordination than unfamiliar groups; however, the ways familiarity contributes to coordination are poorly understood. Prior social experience probably allows individuals to learn the tendencies of familiar group-mates and respond accordingly. Without prior experience, individuals would benefit from strategies for enhancing coordination with unfamiliar others. We used a social catfish, Corydoras aeneus, that uses discrete, observable tactile interactions to assess whether active interactions could facilitate coordination, and how their role might be mediated by familiarity. We describe this previously understudied physical interaction, ‘nudges’, and show it to be associated with group coordination and cohesion. Furthermore, we investigated nudging and coordination in familiar/unfamiliar pairs. In all pairs, we found that nudging rates were higher during coordinated movements than when fish were together but not coordinating. We observed no familiarity-based difference in coordination or cohesion. Instead, unfamiliar pairs exhibited significantly higher nudging rates, suggesting that unfamiliar pairs may be able to compensate for unfamiliarity through increased nudging. By contrast, familiar individuals coordinated with comparatively little nudging. Second, we analysed nudging and cohesion within triplets of two familiar and one unfamiliar individual (where familiar individuals had a choice of partner). Although all individuals nudged at similar rates, the unfamiliar group-mate was less cohesive than its familiar group-mates and spent more time alone. Unfamiliar individuals that nudged their group-mates more frequently exhibited higher cohesion, indicating that nudging may facilitate cohesion for the unfamiliar group-mate. Overall, our results suggest that nudges can mitigate unfamiliarity, but that their usage is reduced in the case of familiar individuals, implying a cost is associated with the behaviour.


Corydoras aeneus. Royal Society Open Science, 6(9), Article 190587.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 30, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 25, 2019
Publication Date 2019-09
Deposit Date Jul 5, 2021
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Electronic ISSN 2054-5703
Publisher The Royal Society
Volume 6
Issue 9
Article Number 190587
Public URL