The social and mating systems of two labrid fishes, Halichoeres maculipinna and H. garnoti, off the Caribbean coast of Panama
Large males of both species are territorial, particularly when spawning. Small Halichoeres maculipinna (but not H. garnoti) are territorial towards equal sized conspecifics, but not towards dissimilar sized conspecifics or any individuals of an abundant congener. Territoriality of small H. maculipinna may be related to the process of sex-change rather than defense of food. Both sexes of both species, but particularly H. maculipinna, migrate from feeding areas to spawning sites at the edges of reefs at specific times of day. In the two species a large male spawns both with females that live in his feeding area and with many others. Differences in the mating system of H. maculipinna in Panama and Florida seem related to habitat differences at those sites. The relative spatial distributions of feeding and spawning sites may affect (a) whether a female spawns with a large male with whom she feeds, and (b) the ability of large males to monopolize mates at the expense of small males. The spawning success of small males seems to depend on whether large males can penalize their participation in spawning rather than on the ability of small males to predict the occurrence of (and then interfere in) spawnings by large males. In both species, the male-specific color pattern is most intensely exhibited by large males during sexual interactions and tends to be lost when they are being aggressive towards conspecifics. The evolutionary development of such a color pattern in labroid fishes seems to be a response to intersexual rather than intrasexual interactions.