Journal of Ethology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 137–144 | Cite as

Sex differences in intrasexual aggression among sex-role-reversed, cooperatively breeding cichlid fish Julidochromis regani

  • Munehiko H. ItoEmail author
  • Motoomi Yamaguchi
  • Nobuyuki Kutsukake


In sex-role-reversed species, females compete for resources (e.g., mates) more intensively than do males. However, it remains unclear whether these species exhibit sex differences in the intensity of aggressive behavior in the context of within-sex contests. Cichlid fish in the genus Julidochromis exhibit intraspecific variation in mating systems, ranging from monogamy to cooperative polyandry with sex-role reversal. In the study reported here, we observed aggressive interactions among three same-sex individuals in Julidochromis regani in the laboratory and tested whether inter-female aggression was more intense than inter-male aggression. Although difference in body size strongly determined the direction of aggression in fish, aggression by a smaller-sized individuals toward larger ones was occasionally observed. This type of aggression was common between individuals of a similar body size (≤5 mm) and occurred more frequently among females than males. In contrast, differences in body size and sex did not affect the frequency of aggression by larger-sized individuals against smaller ones. Bidirectional aggression (i.e., mouth fighting) occurred frequently when two individuals had similar body size, and there was no difference in its frequency between sexes. However, temporal analysis showed that females performed bidirectional aggression more persistently than males. These sex differences in the intensity of intrasexual aggression could be the behavioral mechanisms underpinning cooperative polyandry.


Aggression Sex difference Sex-role reversal Cooperative breeding Cichlid fish Julidochromi



We thank members of the Evolutionary and Behavioral Ecology Group in SOKENDAI for their discussions and valuable comments. We also thank Dr. Satoshi Awata for providing information on wild J. regani and Ken Nagata for programming advice.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Munehiko H. Ito
    • 1
    Email author
  • Motoomi Yamaguchi
    • 1
  • Nobuyuki Kutsukake
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary Studies of Biosystems, School of Advanced SciencesSOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies)Hayama-machi, MiuragunJapan

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