Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 27–32

Allopaternal care in the fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas: females prefer males with eggs

  • L. M. Unger
  • R. C. Sargent


Some species of fishes with exclusive male parental care exhibit the phenomenon of allopaternal care; that is, some males acquire and care for other males' eggs. We conducted a series of experiments to investigate the dynamics and evolution of allopaternal care in one such species, the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). In choosing a nest site, a newly reproductive male tended to take over the nest site of a parental male by evicting the resident male, rather than occupy a physically identical empty nest site. The new male generally cared for the old male's eggs, and in most cases, daily egg survival improved under the new male's care. When males were given a choice among unguarded nest sites, they preferred to occupy nest sites already containing eggs. When eggs were randomly assigned to nesting males, females preferred to spawn with males who had eggs in their nest sites. Thus, it appears that female preference for males with eggs led to the evolution of allopaternal care in the fathead minnow.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. M. Unger
    • 1
  • R. C. Sargent
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and EvolutionState University of New YorkStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology Research Group, T.H. Morgan School of Biological SciencesUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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