Digestion eats into an animal’s ability to lead its group

New research, led by researchers within the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine and published in Current Biology, found that fish who consumed a large meal had to move to the back of their swimming social group due to reduced aerobic capabilities cause by food digestion.

Image of a fishtank

Scientists found that during the digestion process, leading fish were forced to slow down to conserve energy. Researchers believe that the post meal slump associated with digestion could play a role in the group behaviour of wild animals.

Dr Shaun Killen said: “If you were to run with friends and had just eaten a large meal but they hadn’t eaten in a few hours, you would find it more difficult to keep pace with them. We see the same effect in groups of fish but in this case it may have serious effects on how animal social groups function in the natural environment.”

First published: 26 June 2018