Although most people will probably be enjoying another warm and sunny summer day (unless you live in Britain), I will be in my underground fish lab for 12 consecutive hours. It is about 11 degrees Celsius down here to keep the water housing the hundreds of sticklebacks nice and cool so they won’t get into breeding state and show the associated changes in territorial/mating behaviour. I am however feeling a bit chilly as well as I forgot my coat today.. By typing this I hope at least my hands and fingers will warm-up a bit.
Today I am testing the sociability behaviour of a total of 40 three-spined sticklebacks that I caught in the wild near Cambridge about a year ago. To investigate sociability I build a special tank that contains two compartments, one housing a couple of other fish and one that is empty. By measuring the time fish spent near the compartment housing conspecifics I can get a sociability score for each fish and determine if fish are consistent in this behaviour (i.e. reflecting a personality trait). Today is just one testing day of a larger experiment whereby I look at the link between animal personality and leadership.
It is fascinating to already see the differences between the fish without even having analysed the videos. I test the fish for 10 minutes in the sociability tank and while some fish spent more or less the whole trial next to the compartment housing the other fish, others swim around and explore the whole tank and do not really seem to be attracted to seeing conspecifics. I aim to share some videos of this experiment in the near future, so check back soon!
Update: It is 19:00 now and ten hours have passed since I entered my lab this morning. I think I spent at most 15min outside my lab the whole day. Still feeling cold in only my sweater.. but only 5 fish to go now! I reckon I should be finished with everything around 21.00. Next week another day like this to measure the consistency of sociability! But then I make sure I don’t forget my coat ;)