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An integrative approach to understanding conflict management in a highly social vertebrate

Ruberto, T (2024) An integrative approach to understanding conflict management in a highly social vertebrate. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Sociality encompasses a wide and complex array of socially relevant interactions and cognitive processes, such as approaching conspecifics, individual recognition, and discrimination, parental and alloparental care, and conflict management tactics. Such behaviours often emerge through gradual modifications in behaviour, driven by subtle changes in underlying physiological mechanisms. Recognizing the functional behavioural building blocks at the basis of these transformations is crucial for understanding the evolution of complex social behaviour and group living patterns, and gaining insights into how social animals handle conflicts. In this PhD thesis, I explored the intricacies of agonistic behaviours in the highly social cooperatively breeding daffodil cichlid fish (Neolamprologus pulcher) and the associated regulatory mechanisms using diverse perspectives. I performed experiments to study the role of the putative submissive signal head-up display (HUD) during the resolution of conflicts, the effect of environment in the expression of agonistic behaviours, the role of the nonapeptide hormone arginine vasotocin (AVT) on the regulation of social behaviours and in the development of dominance hierarchies. I used an integrative approach encompassing behavioural tests on daffodil cichlids social groups, territorial contest-based experiments, fluorescent immunohistochemistry, and analysis of immediate early genes associated with AVT neuronal activity. The HUDs were utilised as a submission signal by subordinate daffodil cichlids and were strongly correlated with the reduction on the frequency of aggression from the receiver. Aggression of dominant fish was affected by the environment, as well as a rank-based submissive response of the subordinates. The immunohistochemistry experiments showed that AVT is closely related to the individual status in the group social hierarchy and to the dominant individual’s aggression, but not to the submission levels of the subordinates. Although there were no differences in AVT cell activity associated with the expression of immediate early genes, there was a trend of positive correlations between aggressive behaviours and AVT activated cells, which supports the possibility of future studies. Findings of this thesis contribute to a better understanding of the subtleties involved in agonistic interactions within daffodil cichlids, an emerging model for the investigation of sociality. Finally, the questions in this thesis highlight the importance of delving deeper into the study of social behaviours, to identify and achieve a more comprehensive comprehension the underpinning mechanisms at the basis of conflict management and agonistic behaviours.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: aggression; communication; daffodil cichlids; Neolamprologus pulcher; vasopressin
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2024 09:57
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2024 09:58
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00022958
Supervisors: Reddon, A, Swaney, W and Nichols, H
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/22958
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