Mate availability facilitates cannibalistic behaviour in a nest brooding fish: effects of timing during the brood cycle

in Behaviour
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Abstract

Filial cannibalism, eating one's own viable offspring, is accepted as an adaptive response to trade-offs between current and future reproduction. Theoretical models predict that high mate availability may induce more filial cannibalism, but this prediction is rarely tested. To examine this prediction, we performed laboratory experiments using the nest breeding goby Rhinogobius flumineus. Subject males were allowed to mate with a gravid female and care for the broods. A separate gravid female housed in a small cage (stimulus-female) was shown to the subject males at one of three different points during the brood cycle: prior to spawning, within 1 day after spawning and 1 week after spawning. Empty cages were shown as a control. Males that were shown the stimulus-female before spawning cannibalised more eggs than control males. In contrast, males that were shown the stimulus-females after spawning cannibalised as few eggs as control males did. Additionally, males that were shown the stimulus-female prior to spawning did not court females more intensively than other males. Thus, we suggest that the presence of an additional mate, rather than energy expenditure associated with courtship directed toward an additional mate, can facilitate males to cannibalise their eggs.

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