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Sex ratio and the sexual conflict about brood care in a biparental mouthbrooder
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
The pay-off of deserting and leaving a mate to care for the offspring alone is generally assumed to depend mainly on the availability of alternative mating partners and on the potential spawning rate of males and females. Eretmodus cyanostictus is a monogamous mouthbrooding cichlid in which the clutch is successively incubated first by the female and then by the male. It has been suggested that parents are constrained to monogamy due to low remating probabilities for both sexes. We tested this hypothesis by varying the sex ratio experimentally. Mate desertion by either sex was not significantly higher when additional potential mates were present (males: 8.3%, females: 0%) than when there were no other same-sex conspecifics present (males: 0%, females: 0%). Males lost their mate to a male intruder during their incubation in 26.7% of cases. Pair members were more active and showed more aggression when same-sex conspecifics were present. Behavioural differences between treatments were strongest during the incubation period of a given sex. If no desertion takes place, sexual conflict may be expressed also on a second level, the amount of parental care each parent provides. Indeed, males took the offspring later when additional females were present, although male incubation time did not differ between treatments. A hitherto undescribed display behaviour of females was clear evidence of a conflict about the timing of shift of young. In conclusion, offering alternative mating opportunities did not strongly favour mate desertion in E. cyanostictus. It rather revealed a conflict between mates about when to shift the young.
sex ratio, sexual conflict, brood care, mouthbrooder, Cichlidae
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