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Reproductive behaviour of female rosy bitterling Rhodeus ocellatus in response to a female-biased operational sex ratio

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 aThe Key Laboratory of Aquatic Biodiversity and Conservation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan 430072, P.R. China
  • | 2 bInstitute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Brno 60365, Czech Republic
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While the effect of Operational Sex Ratio (OSR) on reproductive behaviour of males has been studied extensively, little is known of the response of females facing a female-biased OSR. We investigated the effect of different OSRs on female reproductive behaviour using the rosy bitterling, Rhodeus ocellatus, a freshwater fish that lays its eggs inside the gills of living freshwater mussels. Three levels of OSR (male/female ratio 1:1, 1:3 and 1:5) were tested. We demonstrated that inspection of the mussel (spawning substrate) by individual females increased with increasingly female-biased OSR, but that the rate of following territorial male decreased. Aggression towards other females was not affected by the OSR. Interestingly, when a male bitterling led a non-dominant female towards the mussel, the dominant female would become aggressive to the male and chase the non-dominant female away. Aggression towards male followed a bell-shaped pattern and was highest at an OSR of 1:3. In both the female-biased OSRs examined, almost 50% of dominant females tended to chase away other females and defend the mussel, showing territoriality in a similar manner to males. These observations suggest that female reproductive behaviour is strongly affected by the OSR, and their reproductive tactics during courtship change from a passive role in courtship (following a male) to an active role in courtship (approaching a male), with presence of female territorial behaviour as the OSR becomes increasingly female-biased. This study provides strong evidence that a female-biased OSR has an important effect on female reproductive behaviour.

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