, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 55-59

Plasticity in spawning visits of female damselfish, Stegastes nigricans : effect of distance to mates

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Both sexes of the damselfish Stegastes nigricans hold individual territories in which they feed on filamentous algae. At dawn, females visit males' territories to spawn, and the males guard the eggs until hatching. We examined how females' spawning behavior varied according to the distances to their mates. Females usually mated with a single male per morning. The distance to the territory of a mate (0.7–12.8 m) did not affect a female's total spawning time per morning, but affected the number of her spawning visits with that male. Females made many repeated spawning visits when spawning with males at short distances, while they spawned the entire clutch in one visit when spawning with males at long distances. This plasticity in female behavior appears to be related to two costs during the spawning visits: (1) intrusions by other fish to feed on algae in the female's territory during her absence, which may cause the female to return repeatedly to her territory for defense, and (2) attacks on the female by other territorial fish, which increased with the distance to their mates' territories. To minimize the sum of both costs, females should change the number of spawning visits depending on the distance to the males' territories.

Received: 30 September 1996 / Accepted after revision: 17 March 1997