Individual fish rhythm directs group feeding: a case study with sea bass juveniles (Dicentrarchus labrax) under self-demand feeding conditions.
Millot S., Bégout M-L.
Aquatic Living Resources, 22: 363-370. 2009.
The long term influence of individual biological rhythms on group feed demand behaviour was investigated in European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) held under controlled environmental conditions with an on-demand feeding system. The experiment was realized over 219 days with 190 fish distributed on 4 tanks. Sea bass had a mean body mass comprised between 139 g to 183 g. The number of feed demand acts by each individual was calculated daily, and the population could thus be partitioned into three categories (high-, low- and zero-triggering fish). The duration of the period that an individual held high-triggering status could vary, but was 63 ± 16 days on average. The transition period between two highest-triggering fish in one tank was on average 4 ± 4 days. The group feeding rhythm followed the same pattern of feed demand rhythm as the highest-triggering individual fish. When the highest-triggering fish was nocturnal, the totality of feed demand in the group was realized during the night with one peak at 22:00, corresponding to dusk under experimental conditions. When the highest-triggering fish was diurnal, the majority of feed demand in the group was realized during the light period with one peak at 06:00, corresponding to dawn, and/or another at 12:00. This study therefore highlights that sea bass group feeding behaviour is not the sum of individual feed demand behaviours, but is directed by the rhythm and behaviour of a few high-triggering fish. The regular changes of high-triggering fish in the group proved that it was not the identity of these particular fish that was most important for the group, but their role as a feed demand leader.