Many vertebrates are known to show behavioural lateralization, whereby they differentially use one side of their body or either of their bilateral organs or limbs. Behavioural lateralization often manifests in a turning bias in fishes, with some individuals showing a left bias and others a right bias. Such biases could be the source of considerable conflict in fish schools given that there may be considerable social pressure to conform to the group to maintain effective group evasion. Here, we show that predation pressure is a major determinant of the degree of lateralization, both in a relative and absolute sense, in yellow-and-blueback fusiliers (Caesio teres), a schooling fish common on coral reefs. Wild-caught fish showed a bias for right turning. When predation pressure was experimentally elevated or relaxed, the strength of lateralization changed. Higher predation pressure resulted in an increase in the strength of lateralization. Individuals that exhibited the same turning bias as the majority of individuals in their group had improved escape performance compared with individuals that were at odds with the group. Moreover, individuals that were right-biased had improved escape performance, compared with left-biased ones. Plasticity in lateralization might be an important evolutionary consequence of the way gregarious species respond to predators owing to the probable costs associated with this behaviour.
- Received May 20, 2016.
- Accepted October 3, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.