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Why do guppies jump?

Date:
April 25, 2013
Source:
University of Maryland
Summary:
Pet guppies often jump out of their tanks. One such accident inspired a new study which reveals how guppies are able to jump so far, and suggests why they do it.

If you've owned a pet guppy, you know they often jump out of their tanks. Many a child has asked why the guppy jumped; many a parent has been stumped for an answer. Now a study by UMD biologist Daphne De Freitas Soares reveals how guppies are able to jump so far, and suggests why they do it.
Credit: Copyright Daphne De Freitas Soares (captured from video)

If you've owned a pet guppy, you know they often jump out of their tanks. Many a child has asked why the guppy jumped; many a parent has been stumped for an answer. Now a study by UMD biologist Daphne De Freitas Soares reveals how guppies are able to jump so far, and suggests why they do it.

Soares, an expert in the brain circuitry that controls animal behavior, decided to study jumping guppies while researching unrelated evolutionary changes in the brainstems of Poecilia reticulata, a wild guppy species from the island of Trinidad and the forebear to the familiar pet shop fish. During that 2011 project, a guppy jumped out of a laboratory tank and into Soares' cup of chai.

"Fortunately it was iced chai and it had a lid on, so he stayed alive," Soares said. "That was enough for me. I had to use a high speed camera to film what was going on."

Soares, an assistant professor of biology, and UMD biology lecturer Hilary S. Bierman used high speed videography and digital imaging to analyze the jumping behavior of nine guppies from the wild Trinidadian species.

In a research paper published April 16 in the online peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, Soares and Bierman reported the jumping guppies started from a still position, swam backwards slowly, then changed direction and hurtled into the air. By preparing for the jump -- a behavior never reported before in fish, according to the two biologists -- the guppies were able to jump up to eight times their body length, at speeds of more than four feet per second.

Soares and Bierman concluded that guppies jump on purpose, and apparently not for the reasons other fish do -- to escape from predators, to catch prey, or to get past obstacles on seasonal migrations.

The biologists hypothesize that jumping serves an important evolutionary purpose, allowing guppies to reach all the available habitat in Trinidad's mountain streams. By dispersing, they move away from areas of heavy predation, minimize competition with one another, and keep the species' genetic variability high, the researchers believe.

"Evolution is truly amazing," said Soares, who spent her own money on fish food, but otherwise conducted the study at no cost.

Video of jumping guppy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fryho0sIp3E


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daphne Soares, Hilary S. Bierman. Aerial Jumping in the Trinidadian Guppy (Poecilia reticulata). PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e61617 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061617

Cite This Page:

University of Maryland. "Why do guppies jump?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425132814.htm>.
University of Maryland. (2013, April 25). Why do guppies jump?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425132814.htm
University of Maryland. "Why do guppies jump?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425132814.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

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