The effects of flow on schooling Devario aequipinnatus: school structure, startle response and information transmission

J Fish Biol. 2014 May;84(5):1401-21. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12365.


To assess how flow affects school structure and threat detection, startle response rates of solitary and small groups of giant danio Devario aequipinnatus to visual looming stimuli were compared in flow and no-flow conditions. The instantaneous position and heading of each D. aequipinnatus was extracted from high-speed videos. Behavioural results indicate that (1) school structure is altered in flow such that D. aequipinnatus orient upstream while spanning out in a crosswise direction, (2) the probability of at least one D. aequipinnatus detecting the visual looming stimulus is higher in flow than no flow for both solitary D. aequipinnatus and groups of eight D. aequipinnatus; however, (3) the probability of three or more individuals responding is higher in no flow than in flow. These results indicate a higher probability of stimulus detection in flow but a higher probability of internal transmission of information in no flow. Finally, results were well predicted by a computational model of collective fright response that included the probability of direct detection (based on signal detection theory) and indirect detection (i.e. via interactions between group members) of threatening stimuli. This model provides a new theoretical framework for analysing the collective transfer of information among groups of fishes and other organisms.

Keywords: collective behaviour; information transmission; predator avoidance; rheotaxis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cues
  • Cyprinidae / physiology*
  • Linear Models
  • Models, Biological
  • Reflex, Startle*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Water Movements*