, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 283-293

Male and Female Parental Roles in the Monogamous Cichlid, Tilapia mariae, Introduced in Florida

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Abstract

We documented male and female parental roles of a monogamous fish, the spotted tilapia, Tilapia mariae, in channelized rivers in southern Florida, where this species dominated the fish fauna within 10 years of their introduction. Clearly differentiated parental roles existed between males and females, with females performing nearly all tending of embryos and most tending of free embryos. After young became free-swimming and left the nest, however, males took over primary tending of the school of young while the female patrolled the perimeter of the school and performed nearly all chases directed at predators. Male and female T. mariae also traded off vigilance and feeding, and showed a high degree of intrapair coordination. Experimental removal of one or both parents had major effects on parental behavior and brood survival and integrity. Solitary females took on a parental role intermediate between that of the male and female of a pair. Untended broods were attacked by predators and scattered into aquatic vegetation, and were not observed to reform. Under dense nesting conditions we observed adoption of broods, group rearing of free-swimming young and the presence of non-breeder ‘satellites’ sharing and defending a territory with breeders. This highly complex parental care may have allowed T. mariae to invade fish communities dominated by uniparental centrarchids, as well as allowing them to use disturbed habitats such as channelized rivers that are of poor quality for nesting and rearing offspring.