Purdue University Graduate School
PhD_Dissertation_Diana Pita_v2.pdf (3.19 MB)

Seeing through the eyes of a small fish: the role of vision in the perception of social information

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posted on 2020-12-08, 03:05 authored by Diana C PitaDiana C Pita
In group-living animals social information is essential to survival, providing indirect information about the environment, such as predator presence. An individual’s ability to acquire social information is mediated by its sensory system. In visually-oriented species, different visual dimensions provide rapid information about conspecifics. However, we know relatively little about how the uptake of visual social information mediates the formation of coordinated patterns of group movement, referred to as collective behavior. Using two species of birds (i.e., European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)) and fish (i.e., zebrafish (Danio rerio) and golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)), I determine how the structure of social interactions are facilitated by the capabilities imposed by the visual system from a theoretical point of view. With a focus on zebrafish (Danio rerio), a visually-oriented, social cyprinid, I further explore the role of vision in mediating social interactions. Specifically, I characterize several relevant visual dimensions in zebrafish that have the potential to influence the uptake of social information: visual coverage, visual resolution and visual contrast. With insights gained from theoretical modelling and a series of behavioral experiments, I discuss the constraints that these visual dimensions might impose on social interactions and develop predictions for collective behavior.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Esteban Fernandez-Juricic

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Jeffrey Lucas

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Reuben Goforth

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Yuk Fai Leung