Marine Biology

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 495–503

Patterns of shelter usage and social aggregation by the vocal Lusitanian toadfish

  • Maria Clara Pessoa Amorim
  • José Miguel Simões
  • Paulo Jorge Fonseca
  • Vitor C. Almada
Original Paper


In some marine fishes, males migrate from deeper to littoral water to breed, where they defend nests and provide parental care. In this study, we describe seasonal patterns of shelter occupation in estuarine shallow waters and assess social aggregation in the Lusitanian toadfish (Batrachoididae), a vocal species with male parental care. Occupation of intertidal shelters was restricted to the breeding season but adult fish remained in subtidal regions during the non-reproductive season and they produced sounds throughout the year. Intertidal shelters were aggregated with up to five shelters found per 2-m segment of an 80-m transect. This aggregation probably resulted from social attraction since many segments were found unoccupied. Moreover, shelters contained on average two fish (maximum of nine). Based on size, shelters with multiple fish seemed to contain females, or possibly sneakers, but also more than one type I male inside, indicating a high social tolerance for conspecifics.


  1. Almada VC, Faria C (2004) Temporal variation of rocky intertidal resident fish assemblages—patterns and possible mechanisms with a note on sampling protocols. Rev Fish Biol Fish 14:239–250. doi:10.1007/s11160-004-6750-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almada VC, Gonçalves EJ, Santos AJ, Baptista C (1994) Breeding ecology and nest aggregations in a population of Salaria pavo (Pisces: Bleniidae) in an area where nests sites are very scarce. J Fish Biol 45:819–830. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1994.tb00947.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amorim MCP, Vasconcelos RO (2008) Variability in the mating calls of the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus: potential cues for individual recognition. J Fish Biol 73:1267–1283. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2008.01974.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amorim MCP, Vasconcelos RO, Marques JF, Almada F (2006) Seasonal variation of sound production in the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus. J Fish Biol 69:1892–1899. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2006.01247.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Amorim MCP, Simões JM, Fonseca PJ (2008) Acoustic communication in the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus: evidence for an unusual large vocal repertoire. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 88:1069–1073. doi:10.1017/S0025315408001677 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barimo JF, Steele SL, Wright PA, Walsh PJ (2004) Ureotely and ammonia tolerance in early-life stages of the gulf toadfish, Opsanus beta. J Exp Biol 207:2011–2020. doi:10.1242/jeb.00956 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Barimo JF, Serafy JE, Frezza PE, Walsh PJ (2007) Habitat use, urea production and spawning in the gulf toadfish Opsanus beta. Mar Biol 150:497–508. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0356-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bass AH (1996) Shaping brain sexuality. Am Sci 84:352–363Google Scholar
  9. Bass AH, McKibben JR (2003) Neural mechanisms and behaviors for acoustic communication in teleost fish. Prog Neurobiol 69:1–26. doi:10.1016/S0301-0082(03)00004-2 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bass AH, Bodnar DA, Marchaterre MA (1999) Complementary explanations for existing phenotypes in an acoustic communication system. In: Hauser MD, Konishi M (eds) Neural mechanisms of communication. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 493–514Google Scholar
  11. Brantley RK, Bass AH (1994) Alternative male spawning tactics and acoustic signals in the plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus (Teleostei, Batrachoididae). Ethology 96:213–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Costa JL (2004) The biology of the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), and its role in the structuring and functioning of the biological communities; special reference to the Mira estuary population. PhD Dissertation, University of LisbonGoogle Scholar
  13. Cotter JC (2008) Distribution and structure of the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) in the Tagus estuary and gender and morphotype identification by ultrasonography. MSc Dissertation, University of LisbonGoogle Scholar
  14. DeMartini EE (1988) Spawning success of the male plainfin midshipman. I. Influences of male body size and area of spawning. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 121:177–192. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(88)90254-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. dos Santos M, Modesto T, Matos RJ, Grober MS, Oliveira RF, Canário A (2000) Sound production by the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus. Bioacoustics 10:309–321Google Scholar
  16. Fine ML, Lenhardt ML (1983) Shallow-water propagation of the toadfish mating call. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A 76:225–231CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gray GA, Winn HE (1961) Reproductive ecology and sound production of the toadfish, Opsanus tau. Ecology 42:274–282. doi:10.2307/1932079 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Modesto T, Canário AVM (2003) Morphometric changes and sex steroid levels during the annual reproductive cycle of the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus. Gen Comp Endocr 131:220–231. doi:10.1016/S0016-6480(03)00027-3 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Oliveira RF, Carvalho N, Miranda J, Gonçalves EJ, Grober M, Santos RS (2002) The relationship between the presence of satellite males and nest-holders’ mating success in the Azorean rock-pool blenny Parablennius sanguinolentus parvicornis. Ethology 108:223–235. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0310.2002.00776.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Palazón-Fernández JL, Arias AM, Sarasquete C (2001) Aspects of the reproductive biology of the toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus (Schneider, 1801) (Pisces: Batrachoididae). Sci Mar 65:131–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pereira TJ (2006) Biology and reproductive ecology of the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) in the Tagus estuary. MSc Dissertation, University of LisbonGoogle Scholar
  22. Roux C (1986) Batrachoididae. In: Whitehead PJP, Bauchot M-L, Hureau JC, Nielsen J, Tortonese E (eds) Fishes of the North-Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, vol 3. UNESCO, Paris, pp 1360–1361Google Scholar
  23. Sisneros JA, Alderks PW, Leon K, Sniffen B (2009) Morphometric changes associated with the reproductive cycle and behaviour of the intertidal-nesting, male plainfin midshipman Porichthys notatus. J Fish Biol 74:18–36. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2008.02104.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Skoglund CR (1961) Functional analysis of swimbladder muscles engaged in sound production of the toadfish. J Biophys Biochem Cytol 10:187–200PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Tavolga WN (1958) Underwater sounds produced by two species of toadfish Opsanus tau and Opsanus beta. B Mar Sci 8:278–284Google Scholar
  26. Zander CD (1990) Habitat and prey dependent distribution of sand gobies, Pomatoschistus minutus (Gobiidae, Telostei), in the SW Baltic. Zool Anz 224:328–341Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Clara Pessoa Amorim
    • 1
  • José Miguel Simões
    • 1
  • Paulo Jorge Fonseca
    • 2
  • Vitor C. Almada
    • 1
  1. 1.Unidade de Investigação em Eco-EtologiaInstituto Superior de Psicologia AplicadaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Departamento de Biologia Animal e Centro de Biologia AmbientalFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations