Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 269–274

Reduced disease in offspring: A benefit of coloniality in sunfish

  • Isabelle M. Côté
  • Mart R. Gross


Increased disease and parasitism are a well-documented cost of group living for colonial birds and mammals, but we now show that disease in offspring of fish may be reduced by nesting in colonies. The aquatic fungusSaprolegnia sp., which is a common cause of egg mortality among freshwater fishes, is more prevalent in the nests of solitary than colonial male bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). Moreover, fungal infection decreases with nest density in colonies. This may be due in part to a behavioural advantage since colonial males can devote less time to defending eggs and more time to fanning them, which reduces fungal infection. In addition, we demonstrate experimentally that solitary nests become infected at higher rates than colonial nests, even in the absence of parental males. This suggests that colonies are encountered by spores at a lower rate and/or that the large number of nests in colonies dilutes the number of fungal spores per nest. Through one or all of these mechanisms, egg mortality in colonial nests is lowered significantly. Therefore, in some cases, disease may select for group living.

Key words

Colony Sunfish Disease Saprolegnia 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander RD (1974) The evolution of social behaviour. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 5:325–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnqvist G, Byström P (1991) Disruptive selection on prey group size: a case for parasitoids? Am Nat 137:268–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bietz BF (1980) The adaptive significance of territorial aggregation in longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis peltastes Cope). PhD dissertation, University of Western Ontario, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown CR, Brown MB (1986) Ectoparasitism as a cost of coloniality in cliff swallow (Hirundo pyrrhonota). Ecology 67:1206–1218Google Scholar
  5. Carlander KD (1977) Handbook of freshwater fishery biology, vol 2. Iowa State University Press, AmesGoogle Scholar
  6. Claussen JE (1991) Annual variation in the reproductive activity of a bluegill population: the effects of clutch size and temperature. MSc thesis, University of Toronto, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  7. Coleman RM, Gross MR, Sargent RC (1985) Parental investment decision rules: a test in bluegill sunfish. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 18:59–66Google Scholar
  8. Coleman RM, Fischer RU (1991) Brood size, male fanning effort and the energetics of a non-shareable parental investment in bluegill sunfish,Lepomis macrochirus (Teleostei: Centrarchidae). Ethology 87:177–188Google Scholar
  9. Dominey WJ (1981) Anti-predator function of bluegill sunfish nesting colonies. Nature 290: 586–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dupuis HMC, Keenleyside MHA (1989) Reproductive success of nesting male longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis peltastes). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 23:109–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Folt CL (1987) An experimental analysis of costs and benefits of zooplankton aggregation. In Kerfoot WC, Sih A (eds) Predation: direct and indirect impacts on aquatic communities. University Press of New England, Hanover, pp 300–314Google Scholar
  12. Foster SA (1989) The implications of divergence in spatial nesting patterns in the geminate Caribbean and Pacific sergeant major damselfishes. Anim Behav 37:465–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Freeland WJ (1976) Pathogens and the evolution of primate sociality. Biotropica 8:12–24Google Scholar
  14. Gross MR (1980) Sexual selection and the evolution of reproductive strategies in sunfishes (Lepomis: Centrarchidae). PhD dissertation, Salt Lake City, University of UtahGoogle Scholar
  15. Gross MR, MacMillan A (1981) Predation and the evolution of colonial nesting in bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 8:163–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gross MR, Nowell WA (1980) The reproductive biology of rock bass,Ambloplites rupestris (Centrarchidae), in Lake Opinicon, Ontario. Copeia 1980:482–494Google Scholar
  17. Hamilton WD (1971) Geometry for the selfish herd. J Theor Biol 31:295–311CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoogland JL (1979) Aggression, ectoparasitism, and other possible costs of prairie dog (Sciuridae,Cynomys spp.) coloniality. Behaviour 69:1–35Google Scholar
  19. Hoogland JL, Sherman PW (1976) Advantages and disadvantages of bank swallow (Riparia riparia) coloniality. Ecol Monogr 46:33–58Google Scholar
  20. Iersel JJA van (1953) An analysis of the parental behaviour of the male three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.). Behaviour Suppl 3:1–159Google Scholar
  21. Jennings MJ, Philipp DP (1992) Female choice and male competition in longear sunfish. Behav Ecol 3:84–94Google Scholar
  22. Loiselle PV (1977) Colonial breeding by an African substratum-spawning cichlid fish,Tilapia zillii. Biol Behav 2:129–142Google Scholar
  23. Manly BFJ (1991) Randomization and Monte Carlo methods in biology. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Margolis L, Esch GW, Holmes JC, Kuris AM, Schad GA (1982) The ecological terms in parasitology (report of an ad hoc committee of the American Society of Parasitologists). J Parasitol 68:899–902Google Scholar
  25. Møller AP (1987) Advantages and disadvantages of coloniality in the swallow,Hirundo rustica. Anim Behav 35:819–832Google Scholar
  26. Morgan MJ, Godin JG (1985) Antipredator benefits of schooling behaviour in a Cyprinodontid fish, the banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus). Z Tierpsychol 70:236–246Google Scholar
  27. Poulin R, Fitzgerald GJ (1989) Shoaling as an anti-ectoparasite mechanism in juvenile sticklebacks (Gasterosteus spp.). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 24:251–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rasmussen JB, Downing JA (1988) The spatial response of chironomid larvae to the predatory leechNephelopsis obscura. Am Nat 131:14–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rice WR (1989) Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evolution 43:223–225Google Scholar
  30. Rubenstein DI, Hohmann ME (1989) Parasites and the social behaviour of island feral horses. Oikos 55:312–320Google Scholar
  31. Scott WB, Crossman EJ (1979) Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bull Fish Res Bd Canada 184Google Scholar
  32. Shields WM, Crook JR (1987) Barn swallow coloniality: a net cost for group breeding in the Adirondacks? Ecology 68:1373–1386Google Scholar
  33. Smith SN, Armstrong RA, Rimmer JJ (1984) Influence of environmental factors on zoospores ofSaprolegnia diclina. Trans Br Mycol Soc 82:413–421Google Scholar
  34. Smith SN, Armstrong RA, Springate J, Barker G (1985) Infection and colonization of trout eggs by Saprolegniaceae. Trans Br Mycol Soc 85:719–724Google Scholar
  35. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1981) Biometry. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Thresher R (1984) Modes of reproduction in reef fishes. TFH Publications, Neptune CityGoogle Scholar
  37. Treisman M (1975) Predation and the evolution of gregariousness. I. Models for concealment and evasion. Anim Behav 23:779–800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Turner GF, Pitcher TJ (1986) Attack abatement: a model for group protection by combined avoidance and dilution. Am Nat 128:228–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wrona FJ, Dixon RWJ (1991) Group size and predation risk: a field analysis of encounter and dilution effects. Am Nat 137:186–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zoran MJ, Ward JA (1983) Parental egg care behavior and fanning activity for the orange chromide,Etroplus maculatus. Environ Biol Fish 8:301–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle M. Côté
    • 1
  • Mart R. Gross
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

Personalised recommendations