Jonathan Aguiñaga

UC Davis

“Within-and between-species differences in behavior as drivers of mixed-species grouping”

Animals, including humans, often collect information from others in their social environments to aid in behavioral decision-making. This ability to monitor the actions of others in social settings is a major benefit of group living. Yet how exactly socially derived information aids in the collective decision-making of mixed-species groups remains poorly understood.


Mixed-species groups are common in nature and confers many benefits to group members. However, individuals can experience these features of group-living differently due to both within- and between-species differences in behavior. Consistent individual differences in behavior may have important consequences on the transmission of relevant social information within a group. In fact, access to conspecific and heterospecific social information may be a major behavioral driver in the formation and maintenance of mixed-species groups. In this study, we develop a null model of collective decision-making for a single-species group. We assess how likely the group is to select ‘moving’ to a correct option under various conditions involving environmental uncertainty and the confidence placed on socially derived information. We plan to extend on this model by adding another species which differs in social reliance behaviors to explore the conditions under which mixed-species groups are expected to form. In a current empirical study, I test model assumptions by assaying for behavioral variation in the clonal Amazon (Poecilia formosa) and Atlantic molly (Poecilia mexicana) which exist in mixed-species groups.

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