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Female defence polygyny and plasticity in the mating system of the demersal triggerfish Rhinecanthus aculeatus (Pisces: Balistidae) from Okinawa Island

Abstract

The prevalence of a haremic mating system type with parental care is one of the main characteristics of the modern triggerfish family (Balistidae). In addition, intraspecific modifications of the mating system in relation to environmental conditions have been recognized. Thirteen months of observation of mating units in a natural population of Rhinecanthus aculeatus from Okinawa Island, Japan, revealed that the mating system in this species involved a mixture of polygyny, monogamy, and potential promiscuity in solitary females. Females defended individual, multi-purpose territories, while males engaged in female defence (“female defence polygyny”) using displays and overt aggressions that advertised that territories were occupied. Male size was strongly linked to access to multiple females (i.e. polygyny). Plasticity in the mating system was related to male–male competition and the ability of females to reject males. An increase in the proportion of monogamous pair territories over the course of the reproductive season was positively correlated with the adult sex ratio (increased male density relative to females), and facultative monogamy was enhanced under a less female-biased sex ratio. A comparison between female and male mating success (number of matings) and the adjustment of the mating status over time revealed that polygyny was advantageous and the optimal mating system for males. Females achieved higher number of matings when pairing with larger males, but mating success was not negatively affected by the actual mating status, and females did not attempt to escape polygyny. Polygyny is therefore considered as the primary mating system in R. aculeatus.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the staff of Sesoko Station, Tropical Biosphere Research Center (TBRC), University of the Ryukyus, for providing facilities for the fieldwork. We especially thank M. Iida for critically reading drafts of the manuscript and two anonymous referees for providing helpful comments. J.D. Reimer and J. Parkinson proofread an earlier version of this article. This study was supported in part by a grant for the “Elucidation of the Life History and Genetic Population of Okinawan Commercial Fishes” from the Okinawa Prefectural Government and by a scholarship provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan (MEXT).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Correspondence to Fabienne Ziadi-Künzli or Katsunori Tachihara.

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Responsible Editor: O. Puebla.

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Ziadi-Künzli, F., Tachihara, K. Female defence polygyny and plasticity in the mating system of the demersal triggerfish Rhinecanthus aculeatus (Pisces: Balistidae) from Okinawa Island. Mar Biol 163, 27 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-015-2780-z

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Keywords

  • Standard Length
  • Large Male
  • Territory Unit
  • Flat Reef
  • Solitary Female