Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 101–116 | Cite as

Female and male territoriality and mating system of the sand tilefish,Malacanthus plumieri

  • Troy A. Baird


The social and reproductive biology of the sand tilefish,Malacanthus plumieri (Malacanthidae), was studied at Glover's Reef, Belize, where this species occurs in colonies over sand-rubble flats. Individuals each occupy a home burrow refuge and a surrounding home range. Home range overlap among adjacent fish of the same sex is low, and individuals defend exclusive use of much of their home range against all conspecifics except mates (i.e., territoriality). Areas defended by males overlap the territories of up to 6 females; and male territory area is positively related to the number of female residents. Males maintain dominance over females within their territories by aggression, including intervention into some female disputes. Females spawn pelagically-dispersed eggs as frequently as every day. Each female spawns near her burrow, almost exclusively with the male whose defended area encompasses her territory (harem polygyny). Tilefish colonies therefore consist of a mosaic of female territories over which adjacent male territories are superimposed. Histological evidence and observation of behavioral sex change in one female revealed thatM. plumieri is capable of protogynous sex reversal. Females did not change sex in response to removal of one male. Occurrence of small transitional fish indicates that the onset of sex change is controlled by factors other than size-related social hierarchies within harems or colonies.

Key words

Aggression Belize Burrowing Harems Malacanthidae Polygyny Reproduction Sex change Spawning 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Troy A. Baird
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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