The shoal-choice test is a popular method to investigate quantity discrimination in social fish based on their spontaneous preference for the larger of two shoals. The shoal-choice test usually requires a long observation time (20–30 min), mainly because fish switch between the two shoals with low frequency, thus reducing the possibilities of comparison. This duration limits the use of the shoal-choice test for large-scale screenings. Here, we developed a new version of the shoal-choice test in which the subject was confined in a large transparent cylinder in the middle of the tank throughout the experiment to bound the minimum distance from the stimulus shoals and favour switching. We tested the new method by observing guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in a 4 versus 6 fish discrimination (experiment 1). The new method allowed for a faster assessment of the preference for the larger shoal (<5 min), resulting in potential application for large population screenings. Guppies switched five times more frequently between the two shoals and remained close to the first chosen shoal ten times less compared to experiments with the old method. In experiment 2, we found that with the new method guppies were able to discriminate up to 5 versus 6 fish, a discrimination that was not achieved with the classical method. This last result indicates that minor methodological modifications can lead to very different findings in the same species and suggests that caution should be exercised when interpreting inter-specific differences in quantitative abilities.

Development and testing of a rapid method for measuring shoal size discrimination

Lucon-Xiccato, Tyrone
Primo
;
Gatto, Elia
Penultimo
;
2017

Abstract

The shoal-choice test is a popular method to investigate quantity discrimination in social fish based on their spontaneous preference for the larger of two shoals. The shoal-choice test usually requires a long observation time (20–30 min), mainly because fish switch between the two shoals with low frequency, thus reducing the possibilities of comparison. This duration limits the use of the shoal-choice test for large-scale screenings. Here, we developed a new version of the shoal-choice test in which the subject was confined in a large transparent cylinder in the middle of the tank throughout the experiment to bound the minimum distance from the stimulus shoals and favour switching. We tested the new method by observing guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in a 4 versus 6 fish discrimination (experiment 1). The new method allowed for a faster assessment of the preference for the larger shoal (<5 min), resulting in potential application for large population screenings. Guppies switched five times more frequently between the two shoals and remained close to the first chosen shoal ten times less compared to experiments with the old method. In experiment 2, we found that with the new method guppies were able to discriminate up to 5 versus 6 fish, a discrimination that was not achieved with the classical method. This last result indicates that minor methodological modifications can lead to very different findings in the same species and suggests that caution should be exercised when interpreting inter-specific differences in quantitative abilities.
Lucon-Xiccato, Tyrone; Dadda, Marco; Gatto, Elia; Bisazza, Angelo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11392/2381420
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