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The inland water fishes of Africa

Didier Paugy
Christian Levêque
Olga Otero


Yves Fermon et Rémy Bigorne


Ethology calls on a wide range of disciplines including genetics, physiology, ecology, developmental biology, and evolution to converge in an integrated view of the organism, its function, and its interactions with its physical system. Among the vertebrates, bird and mammal behaviour have been the subject of much investigation, whereas fish behaviour is still relatively unknown barring a few exceptions, in particular species that are popular with aquarium enthusiasts. The majority of studies on African fishes focus on two families, the Mormyridae because of their particular means of communication (electric signals), and the Cichlidae, owing to their economic importance and significance in evolutionary science with the “species flocks” in the African great lakes (see box, “History of the ethology of African fishes”; chapter Diversity of African fish: a heritage of evolution).

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Extrait du texte

Functions and structure of behaviour

Behaviour is composed of a series of specific actions in response to information, and favourable to sustaining an individual or species. This stimulus may be external (provided by the environment: changes in the physical conditions of the system, presence of a predator or congener, etc.) or internal (provided or possessed by the individual: change in serum hormone levels, etc.) To be efficient, these actions must be spatially and temporally organized. It is therefore necessary to have the response coincide with the stimulus (Guyomarc’h, 1995). Behaviours are generally subdivided into four broad categories (Guyomarc’h, 1995):

  • so-called maintenance behaviours (resting phases);
  • food behaviours (exploratory strategies, capture, etc.)
  • so-called agonistic behaviours (to ward off intra-or interspecific competitors from a territory where the animal feeds and/or reproduces);
  • reproductive behaviours (mating, arrangement of spawning site, nest construction, spaw...

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