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This content will become publicly available on February 22, 2022

Title: Field Observations Provide Biological Context for Interpreting Laboratory Data: The Locomotory Performance of Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) as an Example

Field observations of animal behavior are essential for guiding the interpretations of laboratory data in order to ensure that they coincide with biological reality. Knowing how an organism behaves in its natural environment is a necessary first step in bridging the gap between experimental data collected in the controlled, artificial environment of the lab and explaining the adaptive significance of measured traits. Field observations also challenge assumptions about behavioral definitions and the apparent discreteness of behaviors measured in the lab. As part of an ongoing study in the locomotor performance of Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), we illustrate the role field observations play in contextualizing and expanding interpretations of experimental data and standard assumptions about Bluegill behavior. A comprehensive field study of Lake Waban (Wellesley, MA) and its inhabitants was carried out using underwater cameras, fish finding sonar, and temperature/luminosity loggers to develop a behavioral profile of Bluegill relative to their habitat and interspecific interactions. Although previous experimental work assumed Bluegill adopted locomotor strategies that maximized energy efficiency, field observations demonstrate that swimming performance is driven by a myriad of abiotic and biotic factors. These factors include the need to navigate complex habitats, to flee from predators, to adopt context-specific foraging more » strategies, to ward off rivals, and to coordinate social interactions. These observations add an extra dimension for understanding why Bluegill adopt particular swimming behaviors and how those behaviors might be adaptively significant at each stage of their life history. « less
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Award ID's:
1754650; 2135851
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and comparative biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation