Ruberto, T., Talbot, J. L., Reddon, A. R. 2020. Head up displays are a submission signal in the group-living daffodil cichlid. Behavioural Processes 181, 104271.
Dominance hierarchies can reduce conflict within social groups and agonistic signals can help to establish and maintain these hierarchies. Behaviours produced by subordinates in response to aggression are often assumed to function as signals of submission, however, these behaviours may serve other purposes, for example, defence or escape. For a behaviour to act as a submission signal, the receiver must respond by reducing their likelihood of further aggression towards the signaller. In the current study, we examine the receiver response to a putative signal of submission, the head up display, within established social groups of the cooperatively breeding fish, the daffodil cichlid (Neolamprologus pulcher). We found that when subordinate signallers produce the head up display in response to aggression from the breeder male, he exhibited a longer latency to behave aggressively towards that individual again. We also report that head up displays are rarely produced without being elicited by aggression, and the number of head up displays correlates with the amount of aggression received. Our results demonstrate that the head up display is used as a signal of submission in the daffodil cichlid and provide insight into intragroup communication in an emerging model system for the study of social behaviour.