Small increases in group size improve small shoals' response to water flow in zebrafish

P. S. Suriyampola, A. A. Iruri-Tucker, L. Padilla-Veléz, A. Enriquez, D. S. Shelton, E. P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Social context may influence the perception of sensory cues and the ability to display refined behavioral responses. Previous work suggests that effective responses to environmental cues can be contingent on having a sufficient number of individuals in a group. Thus, the changes in group size may have profound impacts, particularly on the behavior of small social groups. Using zebrafish (Danio rerio), here we examined how changes in group size influence the ability to respond to changes in water flow. We found that fish in relatively larger groups displayed stronger rheotaxis even when comparing pairs of fish with groups of four fish, indicating that a small increase in group size can enhance the responsiveness to environmental change. Individual fish in relatively larger groups also spent less time in the energetically costly leading position than individuals in pairs, indicating that even a small increase in group size may provide energetic benefits. We also found that the shoal cohesion was dependent on the size of the group but within a given group size, shoal cohesion did not vary with the flow rate. Our study highlights that even a small change in group size could significantly affect the way social fish respond to the changes in water flow, which could be an important attribute that shapes the resilience of social animals in changing environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-281
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Zoology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Danio rerio
  • energetic costs
  • group size
  • rheotaxis
  • sensory enhancement
  • shoal cohesion
  • shoals
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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