Asymmetric sexual conflict over parental care in a biparental cichlid
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- Steinegger, M. & Taborsky, B. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2007) 61: 933. doi:10.1007/s00265-006-0322-x
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Theoretical models predict that parents should adjust the amount of care both to their own and their partner’s body condition. In most biparental species, parental duties are switched repeatedly allowing for repeated mutual adjustment of the amount of care. In the mouthbrooding cichlid Eretmodus cyanostictus, terms are switched only once with females taking the first share. The timing of the shift of the clutch between mates strongly determines both partners’ brooding period and thereby their parental investment. Females signal their readiness to transfer the young several days before the male finally takes them, suggesting sexual conflict over the timing of the shift. In a lab experiment, we reduced the body condition of either the female or the male of a pair to test whether energy reserves affect the timing of the shift and whether female signalling behaviour depends on energetic state. Males with a lowered condition took the young later and incubated for a shorter period, which prolonged the incubation time of their female partners. When female condition was lowered, female and male incubation durations remained unchanged, although females signalled their readiness to shift more intensely. Our results suggest that males adjust their parental investment to own energy reserves but are unresponsive to their mate’s condition. Females appear to carry the entire costs for the male’s adjustment of care. We propose that intrinsic asymmetries in the scope for mutual adjustment of parental investment and the costs of negotiation crucially influence solutions of the conflict between sexes over care.