Paternity of subordinates raises cooperative effort in cichlids

Oct 12, 2011

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

The highly social Neolamprologus pulcher displays cooperative breeding behavior, where non-parents contribute to rearing the offspring of the dominant breeding pair. Until now, it was assumed that male subordinates never gained paternity in the field. A new study published Oct. 12, in the online journal , reveals that some offspring from this domestic arrangement are actually fathered by subordinate members of the group, and when this happens these fish increase investment.

The study demonstrates that the level of cooperative behavior is affected by direct fitness benefit - producing their own offspring - on top of indirect benefits such as safety, or raising related offspring.

The researchers, led by Rick Bruintjes at the University of Bristol, found that while sired 99.7% of all offspring, the only sired 88.8%. Subordinate females did not participate in reproduction, but male subordinates successfully gained paternity in 28% of all clutches.

Subordinate males that sired offspring defended more rigorously against predators compared to similar males that did not sire offspring. Neither parentage nor other helping behaviors were affected by relatedness between subordinates and dominants. According to Dr Bruintjes, "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 of helping behaviour."

Explore further: Romeo and Juliet roles for banded mongooses

Related Stories

Dominant meerkats render rivals infertile

Aug 08, 2006

When pregnant, dominant female meerkats subject their subordinates to escalating aggression and temporary eviction causing them to become overly stressed and as a result infertile, a new study finds.

Females decide whether ambitious males float or flounder

Jan 30, 2008

Aggression, testosterone and nepotism don’t necessarily help one climb the social ladder, but the support of a good female can, according to new research on the social habits of an unusual African species of fish.

Recommended for you

The math of shark skin

10 hours ago

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

Seafaring spiders depend on their 'sails' and 'anchors'

15 hours ago

Spiders travel across water like ships, using their legs as sails and their silk as an anchor, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. The study helps explain how sp ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.