Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cichlid male nannies help out, especially if they've been sneaking

Date:
October 17, 2011
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
Subordinate male cichlid fish who help with the childcare for the dominant breeding pair are occasionally actually the fathers of some of the offspring they help to rear, according to new research. This sneaky paternity increases the subordinate fish's investment in the offspring in their care.

Neolamprologus pulcher displaying defense behavior.
Credit: Image by M. Taborsky

Subordinate male cichlid fish who help with the childcare for the dominant breeding pair are occasionally actually the fathers of some of the offspring they help to rear, according to new research from the University of Bristol published in the online journal PLoS ONE. This sneaky paternity increases the subordinate fish's investment in the offspring in their care.

The highly social cichlid fish Neolamprologus pulcher, endemic to Lake Tanganyika in Africa, live in social groups consisting of a dominant breeding pair and between 1 and 15 subordinates of both sexes that perform brood care, territory defence and maintenance. Subordinates are often distantly related or unrelated to the dominants.

Cooperative breeding of this kind has puzzled evolutionary biologists for a long time as it is costly and often does not generate obvious fitness benefits to subordinates. In the case of N. pulcher, the main benefit for subordinates to stay in a territory of dominant breeders seems to be the protection gained against predators provided by the large group members.

Previously, it was assumed that male subordinates never achieved paternity but the Bristol researchers suspected that, due to low relatedness between dominants and subordinates, mature male subordinates would attempt to father offspring and that achieving paternity would increase their helping behaviour.

The team, led by Dr Rick Bruintjes, tested this theory by studying groups of cichlids at Kasakalawe Point, Zambia and found that while dominant females were the mothers of 99.7 per cent of all offspring, the dominant males only sired 88.8 per cent. Subordinate females did not participate in reproduction, but male subordinates successfully gained paternity in 27.8 per cent of all clutches.

Furthermore, subordinate males that sired offspring defended more rigorously against egg predators compared to similar males that did not sire offspring, and they also tended to stay closer to the breeding shelter.

The study shows that the cooperative behaviour of the subordinate male fish has a direct fitness benefit for them -- that is, producing their own offspring -- as well as such indirect benefits as safety.

Dr Bruintjes said: "This is the first evidence in a cooperatively breeding fish species that the helping effort of male subordinates may depend on obtained paternity, which stresses the need to consider direct fitness benefits in evolutionary studies of helping behaviour."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rick Bruintjes, Danielle Bonfils, Dik Heg, Michael Taborsky. Paternity of Subordinates Raises Cooperative Effort in Cichlids. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (10): e25673 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025673

Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "Cichlid male nannies help out, especially if they've been sneaking." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111012185628.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2011, October 17). Cichlid male nannies help out, especially if they've been sneaking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111012185628.htm
University of Bristol. "Cichlid male nannies help out, especially if they've been sneaking." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111012185628.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins