Serranus tabacarius (Serranidae), the tobaccofish, is a simultaneous hermaphrodite which belongs to a group of seabasses that exhibit a wide variety of social and mating systems. The reproductive behavior of tobaccofish is similar to other hermaphroditic seabasses, with individuals assuming sex-specific spawning behaviors that allow for the assignment of male and female roles in a mating sequence. Virtually all matings involved pairs of individuals, although streaking, an alternative male mating tactic, was observed once. Pairs engage in egg trading, where individuals divide their daily clutch into a series of sequentially released parcels and take turns releasing eggs for their partner to fertilize. Individuals mate over a late afternoon spawning period with a number of partners sequentially. Larger individuals have both more total matings and more spawning partners. Egg trading is not symmetrical, the number of male and female matings for an individual in a spawning sequence is often unequal. Overall, the ratio of male to female matings increases with individual size. Large individuals are socially dominant, chase conspecifics during the reproductive period, and are more likely to end a spawning bout with a partner immediately after mating in the male role. In addition, larger individuals are less likely to reciprocate female matings by a partner, either by only mating once (as a male) in a spawning bout or by mating consecutively as a male within a series of matings. Although larger individuals show this relative specialization in the male role, they maintain their simultaneous hermaphroditism and obtain a substantial percentage of their mating success through female function. Egg trading appears to reduce the opportunity for large individuals to specialize as pure males, and thus interacts with the environmental potential for polygamy in shaping the mating system and sex allocation pattern in this species.
Mating system Cooperation Sexual selection Caribbean Serranidae