Reduced cannibalism during male pregnancy

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 CIBIO/InBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Rua Padre Armando Quintas, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal
  • 2 Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, rua do Campo Alegre, 4169-007 Porto, Portugal
  • 3 Department of Animal Ecology, Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC), Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 14, 752 36, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 4 CEBIMED, Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Fernando Pessoa, Rua Carlos da Maia 296, 4200-150 Porto, Portugal

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Cannibalism provides energetic benefits but is also potentially costly, especially when directed towards kin. Since fitness costs increase with time and energy invested in offspring, cannibalism should be infrequent when parental investment is high. Thus, filial cannibalism in male syngnathids, a group known for the occurrence of male pregnancy, should be rare. Using the pipefish (Syngnathus abaster) we aimed to investigate whether cannibalism does occur in both sexes and how it is affected by reproductive and nutritional states. Although rare, we witnessed cannibalism both in the wild and in the laboratory. Unlike non-pregnant males and females, pregnant and post-partum males largely refrained from cannibalising juveniles. Reproducing males decreased their feeding activity, thus rendering cannibalism, towards kin or non-kin, less likely to occur. However, if not continuously fed, all pipefish adopted a cannibal strategy, revealing that sex and life history stages influenced the ratio between the benefits and costs of cannibalism.

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