South West Wales

Bolder stickleback fish make faster decisions, study finds

Stickleback fish Image copyright dr andrew king
Image caption Researchers found that while all the fished reached their goal the more adventurous got there first

We could learn a lot from the humble stickleback fish when putting together teams, according to a study led by a Swansea University academic.

It looked at how the fish negotiated mazes to find food and found that those with bold personalities made accurate decisions faster than shy ones.

Dr Andrew King's team said the findings suggest the right balance of leaders and followers is key to team success.

But being quick to explore could mean the brave are picked off first.

"If we are looking at how to maybe manage populations in the wild or make better teams then we need to make sure that these types of individuals stay in the group," behavioural ecologist Dr King told BBC Radio Wales.

The researchers say the study has revealed the way those with different personalities make decisions could help social creatures have a better chance of survival as a group.

'Group leaders'

They had expected to find that bolder fish would move through the maze quicker but would be less accurate in their choices, while shy fish would navigate more slowly but make more accurate decisions.

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Media captionBehavioural scientist Dr Andrew King explained what we can learn from the research

"We were surprised to find that in fact bolder fish were just as accurate and explored the underwater maze more rapidly than the shyer fish," said Diamanto Mamuneas, a PhD student involved in the project at The Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

"Since we know that bolder sticklebacks emerge as group leaders and can initiate movement of a shoal, our findings suggest why it might pay to follow these types of individuals. The decisions of bold leaders are actually just as good as that of shy fish - but faster.

"Having a group composed of a few bold leaders and many shy followers may help with coordination, enabling quick and accurate decisions to be made in order to locate resources safely and avoid predators."

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