When Being a Cuckold Makes Evolutionary Sense

Oct 09, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Evolutionary biology theory predicts that males usually won't invest a lot of time raising offspring when there is a good chance they are not the fathers. Yale University researchers have found a notable exception to this premise-a male fish in the Mediterranean, the ocellated wrasse, that is more likely to be paternal when there is grave doubt about the offsprings' parentage.

Theory also suggests females will look for cues in males that indicate they will make good fathers. However, results of the study — reported this week in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London — show female ocellated wrasse deposit more eggs into nests where the potentially nurturing “parental” males are surrounded by non-nesting “sneaker” males, who are also likely to father her young but spend no time raising them.

Parental male oscellated wrasse are more likely to care for offspring in this sperm-filled environment than in nests in which there is less sexual competition, said Suzanne H. Alonzo, assistant professor of ecology and and co-author of the study, along with Kellie L. Heckman, a postdoctoral fellow in the department.

Alonzo said that while these findings surprise some evolutionary biologists, they make sense from the perspective of the nesting male ocellated wrasse. While the individual nesting male has a greater chance of being cuckolded when sneaker males are present, he also has a better chance of raising more of his own offspring because females deposit more eggs in nests where there are already large numbers of offspring.

“While our simpler theories have trouble explaining the diversity of what we observe in nature, these patterns do have explanations,” Alonzo said. “The paper suggests we may have oversimplified the of how these things work.”

Provided by Yale University (news : web)

Explore further: Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The cost of keeping eggs fresh for mother cockroaches

Feb 26, 2007

One of the defining differences between the sexes is in the size of their gametes. Males make many tiny sperm while females make only a few large eggs. This suggests that sperm are cheap while eggs are expensive. ...

Why solitary reptiles lay eggs in communal nests

Sep 03, 2009

Reptiles are not known to be the most social of creatures. But when it comes to laying eggs, female reptiles can be remarkably communal, often laying their eggs in the nests of other females. New research in the September ...

Recommended for you

Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

Aug 29, 2014

The Natural History Museum of Denmark recently discovered a unique gift from one of the greatest-ever scientists. In 1854, Charles Darwin – father of the theory of evolution – sent a gift to his Danish ...

Top ten reptiles and amphibians benefitting from zoos

Aug 29, 2014

A frog that does not croak, the largest living lizard, and a tortoise that can live up to 100 years are just some of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos, according to a new report.

User comments : 0