How animals co-operate with group members

Research using the Trinidad guppy is helping us understand how animals cooperate with non-related group members.

Professor Darren Croft, Associate Professor of Animal Behaviour explained: “Relatives share genes so it is clear why cooperation is beneficial among kin. But understanding how non-kin cooperation has evolved remains a challenge - cooperative individuals can be exploited by cheats who take the benefits but do not help.”

The Trinidad guppy lives close to predators, but to minimise risk and the effort involved in being vigilant they inspect predators in cooperative partnerships made up of non-kin.

Darren explained: “To understand this behaviour we show the guppies a predator. There is always a barrier between the guppy and the predator, and there is also a refuge where the guppy can no longer see the predator.”

To aid this research the fish are anesthetised and given and small ID tags in a harmless process used in aquaculture for marking fish.