Simultaneous courtship and parenting in males and sex role reversal in females of the haremic bluebanded goby, Lythrypnus dalli

in Behaviour
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While males typically compete for females, species with female biased sex ratios and/or large male investment in offspring care often exhibit reversed sex roles. Here we investigated, in a haremic fish species, the bluebanded goby, Lythrypnus dalli, the impact of male and female courtship behaviour on male reproductive success, measured as the total number of eggs in the nest and total number of developed eggs. Reproductive success was not associated with rates of male behaviour, such as parenting, approaching and courtship, but was associated with rates of female courtship. Consistent with predictions for a role-reversed reproductive strategy, only males demonstrated nest care and females exhibited high rates of courtship and intrasexual competition, such that alpha females interrupted courtship solicitations by beta females. Overall, these data are consistent with sex role reversal in L. dalli and show that the expression of male courtship behaviour does not interfere with paternal care.

Simultaneous courtship and parenting in males and sex role reversal in females of the haremic bluebanded goby, Lythrypnus dalli

in Behaviour

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Figures

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    Scenarios and rules for scoring courtship solicitation postures by Lythrypnus dalli females (top views). The body of the female (♀) should be aligned perpendicular to the male (♂) so as to display the state of her distended abdomen (gravidity) to the male, the female must remain stationary and not engaged in interaction with another individual or feeding. (A) The female could be positioned anterior or (B) posterior to the male; (C) some part of the female body must be intersected by the median linear axis of the male.

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    Social groups of Lythrypnus dalli show within and between group natural variation in (A) mean total number of eggs (orange + eyed) laid on 8 different days; (B) mean number of nest care (fanning and rubbing) bouts exhibited on 8 different days during 10 min observation sessions, over the course of 26 days in social groups housed in a semi-natural laboratory environment. Each social group (N=16) consisted of one male and two size-mismatched females. Error bar for each group captures variation across time; Group 1 did not have any eggs during the experimental period.

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    Effect of egg presence on behaviour exhibited by male Lythrypnus dalli during 10 min observation periods over a 26-day period (A) rates of male approaches towards females; (B) number male nest care bouts (fanning and rubbing); (C) nest care duration. Each group comprised of one male and two size-mismatched females. Eight behavioural observations were conducted for N=16 groups. Data are means ± SEM.

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    Effect of egg presence on rates of courtship behaviour exhibited by Lythrypnus dalli living in groups comprised of one male (♂) and two size-mismatched females (α♀, alpha female; β♀, beta female) during egg absence and presence over a 26-day period. Courtship behaviours quantified were jerks for males and solicitations for females. When there are no eggs in the nest, rates of beta solicitations are higher than males jerk rate. Eight behavioural observations were conducted for N=16 groups. p<0.05. Data are means ± SEM.

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    Relationship between number of eggs and male Lythrypnus dalli behaviour exhibited during 10-min observation periods over a 26-day period (A) Total number of eggs (orange + eyed) and number of nest care bouts (fanning and rubbing); (B) total number of eggs (orange + eyed) and rate of male courtship jerks; (C) total number of eggs (orange + eyed) and rate of male approaches towards females; (D) number of eyed eggs and number of nest care bouts (fanning and rubbing); (E) number of eyed eggs and rate of male courtship jerks and (F) number of eyed eggs and rate of male approaches towards females. Eight behavioural observations and 8 egg counts were conducted for N=16 groups over a 26-day period.

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    Relationship between number of eggs and rates of female Lythrypnus dalli behaviour exhibited during 10-min observation periods over a 26-day period (A) Total number of eggs (orange + eyed) and rate of alpha female solicitation; (B) total number of eggs (orange + eyed) and rate of beta female solicitation; (C) total number of eggs (orange + eyed) and rates of alpha female + beta female solicitation; (D) number of eyed eggs and rate of alpha female solicitation; (E) number of eyed eggs and rate of beta female solicitation and (F) number of eyed eggs and rates of alpha female + beta female solicitation. Eight behavioural observations were conducted for N=16 groups over a 26-day period.

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    Simplified flow chart showing the pattern of interactions within Lythrypnus dalli groups consisting of one male, an alpha female, and a beta female, based on first order Markov transitions. A total of 875 transitions were used to generate the chart, and arrow thickness is proportional to the frequency (converted into percentage, and noted beside the arrow) of the transition. To reduce complexity, only frequencies > 0.1 (10%) are shown. Abbreviations: ♂, male; α♀, alpha female; β♀, beta female; A, approach; D, displacement; S, solicitation; I, interruption of solicitation.

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