Animals make use a range of social information to inform their movement decisions. One common movement rule, found across many different species, is that the probability that an individual moves to an area increases with the number of conspecifics there. However, in many cases, it remains unclear what social cues produce this and other similar movement rules. Here, we investigate what cues are used by damselfish (Dascyllus aruanus) when repeatedly crossing back and forth between two coral patches in an experimental arena. We find that an individual's decision to move is best predicted by the recent movements of conspecifics either to or from that individual's current habitat. Rather than actively seeking attachment to a larger group, individuals are instead prioritizing highly local and dynamic information with very limited spatial and temporal ranges. By reanalysing data in which the same species crossed for the first time to a new coral patch, we show that the individuals use static cues in this case. This suggests that these fish alter their information usage according to the structure and familiarity of their environment by using stable information when moving to a novel area and localized dynamic information when moving between familiar areas.
Keywords: Bayesian model selection; collective behaviour; collective decision-making; social information.