Marine Biology

, 166:59 | Cite as

Host selection and ovipositor length in eight sympatric species of sculpins that deposit their eggs into tunicates or sponges

  • Satoshi AwataEmail author
  • Haruka Sasaki
  • Tomohito Goto
  • Yasunori Koya
  • Hirohiko Takeshima
  • Aya Yamazaki
  • Hiroyuki Munehara
Original Paper


Interspecific interactions between parasites and hosts can influence the evolution of behavioural and morphological adaptations of both parasites and their hosts. There is, however, little empirical evidence available regarding the evolution of reproductive traits driven by these interactions. In this paper, we investigated host selection and ovipositor length in nine sympatric marine sculpins that oviposit into tunicates or sponges. Field and genetic studies have revealed host use for eight out of nine species of sculpins investigated here: five species of Pseudoblennius, two species of Furcina and one species of Vellitor. For one species studied (V. minutus), no egg masses could be found. Ovipositor length reflects morphology of host species utilised: six sculpin species had extremely long ovipositors allowing females to attach eggs to the deep atrium of solitary tunicates, whereas the two species that attached their eggs to the small space of atrial siphon of colonial tunicates and the spongocoel of sponges had short ovipositors. Ovipositor length varied between solitary-tunicate spawners and species with longer ovipositors selected larger tunicates. Since the ancestral form is non-parasitic, the ovipositor evolved as an adaptation to utilise sponges and tunicates as hosts. Sculpins found sympatrically may show host specificity to avoid interspecific competition for spawning niches and ovipositors may have evolved depending on the species and size of host invertebrates.



We thank Teruaki Nishikawa and Yuji Ise for help with the classification of tunicates and sponges. We are also grateful to Mitsuo Homma (Diving Service F. Wave), Ryo Honma (Sado Diving Centre), Yoshihisa Sato (Senkakuwan Ageshima Aquarium), Akihiro Yamada, Hiromitsu Takashima (Ogi Diving Centre), Tadashi Shoji (Diving Service S. World), Sadogashima SCUBA Diving Association and Kitakoura Recreational Fishing Cooperative for support in the field. We would like to thank Tomonobu Uryu for creating videos for us and Editage ( for English language editing. The anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript. The project was financially supported in part by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP24770016 and JP16H04841 to S.A., JP26450259 to Y.K. and JP25304011 to H.M. and by the Sasaki Environment Technology Foundation (H26) to S.A.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical statement

The research reported in this study was carried out in accordance with Animal Care and Use Committees at Niigata University and Osaka City University. All of the procedures described above meet the ABS/ASAB guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals. Research permission was obtained from Fisheries Cooperative Association of Sado, Japan.

Supplementary material

227_2019_3506_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 2266 kb)

Movie S1 Spawning behaviours of female Pseudoblennius cottoides in the aquarium. Six Halocynthia ritteri on wire-netting were placed in a 75 × 45 × 45 cm aquarium. Eggs were deposited in the atrium of a tunicate through the atrial siphon using extremely long ovipositors. Eggs were probably released into the atrium when the female opened her mouth. The female stayed still on the tunicate after spawning. She ejected her ovipositor 1 min 22 sec and left the tunicate 2 min 34 sec after the insert, respectively (not shown). This movie was filmed by H. S. on Feb. 7, 2015. Fish and tunicates were collected on the coast of Sado Island in the Sea of Japan. (M4V 7441 kb)

Movie S2 Failure of spawning by female Pseudoblennius cottoides in the aquarium. The atrial siphon of the tunicate closed before the sculpin female inserted her ovipositor. Settings were the same as in Movie S1. This movie was filmed by H. S. on Feb. 1, 2015. (M4V 5619 kb)

Movie S3 Spawning behaviours of female Pseudoblennius marmoratus in the field. Eggs were deposited in the spongocoel of a sponge using short ovipositors. This movie was filmed by Tomonobu Uryu on Dec. 28, 2009 at Izu Oceanic Park, Izu Peninsula, Pacific coast of Japan. Water temperature was about 16 °C and water depth was about 5 m. (M4V 11238 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Animal Sociology, Graduate School of ScienceOsaka City UniversityOsaka 558-8585Japan
  2. 2.Sado Marine Biological Station, Faculty of ScienceNiigata UniversitySadoJapan
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Faculty of EducationGifu UniversityGifuJapan
  4. 4.Department of Marine Biology, School of Marine Science and TechnologyTokai UniversityShizuokaJapan
  5. 5.Research Institute for Humanity and NatureKyotoJapan
  6. 6.Usujiri Fisheries Station, Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversityHakodateJapan

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