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How fish punish 'queue jumpers'

eat of punishment and adjust their own size in order to avoid presenting a challenge to the one above them, she says.

Social hierarchies are very stable in these fish and in practice challenges and expulsions are extremely rare probably because expulsion from the group and the coral reef it occupies means almost certain death to the loser.

It is clear the fish accept the threat of punishment and co-operate as a way of maintaining their social order and thats not so very different to how humans and other animals behave.

Dr Wong said that experimentally it has always proved extremely difficult to demonstrate how higher animals, such as apes, use punishment to control subordinates and discourage anti-social activity because of the difficulty in observing and interpreting their behaviour.

In the case of the gobies the effect is much more apparent because they seek to maintain a particular size ratio relative to the fish above them in the queue, in order not to provoke a conflict.

The gobies have shed new light on our understanding of how social stability is maintained in animals, she says.

While it not be accurate to draw a direct link between fish behaviour and specific human behaviour, it is clear there are general patterns of behaviour which apply to many higher life forms, ourselves included. These help us to understand why we do the things we do.


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Contact: Dr. Marian Wong
marian.wong1@jcu.edu.au
074-781-5350
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
26-Jun-2007


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