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Parental care and mate attraction in the Florida flagfish, Jordanella floridae


Theory suggests that there is a trade-off between mate attraction and investment in parental care. Yet, under some circumstances, such as in species with uniparental male care, it is conceivable that males who provide more care also attract more females, and hence avoid this cost. We tested these two alternative hypotheses using the Florida flagfish, Jordanella floridae, which is a highly sexually dimorphic species with male parental care. We predicted that if components of male care behavior primarily serve offspring survival, they should display these behaviors more in the presence of eggs than without eggs. We also predicted that males should show a trade-off between display, and other activities directed to other fish, and care behaviors. Alternatively, if care has a positive effect on mating success, we expected males to show care even in the absence of eggs, and that they should display more care in the presence of females. We found that care behavior mostly depended on the presence of eggs, males increased care when they guarded eggs, and there was a negative relationship between rates of interaction and care behavior. Most care was exhibited in the absence of other fish while the presence of males and females both had a negative effect on care behavior. There was no difference in care behavior with males or females present. Only nest-visitation rates were highest in the presence of females, suggesting that this behavior is used as part of the courtship. These results support the idea that male care in this species is primarily influenced by natural selection. Males did, however, display fanning and other egg-directed behaviors even in the absence of eggs. The level of these behaviors was constant and independent of display behavior. Hence, it seems that care may be used in mate attraction before the male has received his first clutches.

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All procedures used in this study comply with the national laws and regulations of the United States. Financial support for this study was provided by the University of Helsinki (to K.B.), the Fulbright Foundation and the Academy of Finland (to K.L.), and the University of Florida (to C.St. M.).

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Correspondence to Kai Lindström.

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Communicated by J. Krause

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Bonnevier, K., Lindström, K. & St. Mary, C. Parental care and mate attraction in the Florida flagfish, Jordanella floridae . Behav Ecol Sociobiol 53, 358–363 (2003).

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  • Sexual selection
  • Evolution of care
  • Fanning
  • Jordanella floridae
  • Mate attraction