Guppies prefer to follow large (robot) leaders irrespective of own size
Tim Landgraf, David Bierbach, Hauke Mönck, Luliane Lukas, Marie Habedank, Pawel Romanczuk, Jens Krause – 2018
Body size is often assumed to determine how successful an individual can lead others with larger individuals being more likely to lead than smaller ones. However, direct evidence for such a relation is scarce. Furthermore, even if larger individuals are more likely to lead, body size correlates often with specific behavioral patterns (e.g., swimming capacity) and it is thus unclear whether larger individuals are more often followed than smaller ones because they are larger or because they behave in a certain way. To control for behavioral differences among differentially-sized leaders, we used biomimetic robotic fish – Robofish – of different sizes. Robofish is accepted as a conspecific by live guppies (Poecilia reticulata) and provides standardized behaviors irrespective of its size. We specifically asked whether larger leaders are preferentially followed when behavior is controlled for and whether the preferences of followers depend on their own body size or their risk taking behavior (‘boldness’). We found that live guppies followed larger Robofish leaders closer than smaller ones and this pattern was independent of the followers’ own body size as well as risk-taking behavior. This is the first study that shows a ‘bigger is better’ pattern in leadership in shoaling fish that is fully independent of behavioral differences between differentially-sized leaders and followers’ own size and personality.