Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 257–265 | Cite as

Filial cannibalism and reproductive success in the maternal mouthbrooding cichlid fish Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor

  • Wolfgang Mrowka


Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor is an iteroparous maternal mouthbrooding cichlid fish living in small and shallow waters in East Africa. It is subjected to large seasonal variations of population density. Laboratory experiments show that with increasing density and time after spawning the number of offspring present in the mouth decreased. By experimentally varying density and the numbers of fertilized and unfertilized eggs in the mouth at the end of spawning the following causes of brood size reduction were identified: (1) At high densities some of the spawned eggs are stolen by conspecifics before they are taken into the mouth. Of the eggs taken up a considerable proportion is unfertilized. (2) Unfertilized eggs are selectively swallowed from day 2 to day 5 after spawning. (3) Some of the fertilized eggs are also swallowed during mouthbrooding. (4) If the number of eggs in the mouth falls below a critical value of approximately 20% of the number of eggs spawned, they are all swallowed. By contrast, predation by conspecifics is insignificant as long as the brood is in the mother's mouth. The causes and functions of the mother's filial cannibalism are discussed.


Population Density Seasonal Variation Laboratory Experiment Shallow Water Reproductive Success 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang Mrowka
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoologisches Institut der Technischen Universität BraunschweigBraunschweigFederal Republic of Germany

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