Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 307-313

First online:

Paternal care and the cost of polygyny in the green dart-poison frog

  • Kyle SummersAffiliated withDivision of Amphibians and Reptiles, Museum of Zoology, University of MichiganSmithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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In species with male parental care, polygyny may reduce the parental effort provided by a male, and hence impose a cost on the fitness of his mates, because of decreased growth, survival or health of offspring. I examined a cost of polygyny in the green dart-poison frog, Dendrobates auratus, a species with male parental care in which both male polygyny and mate guarding by females occurs (Summers 1989). All D. auratus males seen carrying tadpoles in a marked area were followed and the pools where they deposited their tadpoles were recorded. Males frequently deposited more than one tadpole in the same pool (in 25% of the observed depositions a male deposited a tadpole in a pool where he had previously deposited at least one other tadpole). Experiments involving manipulation of tadpole densities in pools typically utilized by D. auratus (calabash husks and treeholes) showed that increasing tadpole number had a strong negative effect on both growth rate and survivorship, indicating that polygyny can impose a cost on the fitness of a male's offspring. Hence, females do face a potential cost, in terms of reduced offspring growth and survivorship, when their mates mate polygynously and care for the offspring of other females.