Adaptive host choice and avoidance of superparasitism in the spawning decisions of bitterling (Rhodeus sericeus)
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Choice of a site for oviposition can have fitness consequences. We investigated the consequences of female oviposition decisions for offspring survival using the bitterling, Rhodeus sericeus, a freshwater fish that spawns inside living unionid mussels. A field survey of nine bitterling populations in the Czech Republic revealed a significantly lower rate of release of juvenile bitterling from Anodonta cygnea compared to three other mussel species. A field experiment demonstrated that female bitterling show highly significant preferences for spawning in A. anatina, Unio pictorum, and U. tumidus. Within a species, female bitterling avoided mussels containing high numbers of bitterling embryos. Mortality rates of bitterling embryos in mussels were strongly density dependent and the strength of density dependence varied significantly among mussel species. Female preferences for mussels matched survival rates of embryos within mussels and females distributed their eggs among mussels such that embryo mortalities conformed to the predictions of an ideal free distribution model. Thus, female oviposition choice is adaptive and minimizes individual embryo mortality.
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