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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