Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 70, Issue 4, pp 569–573

Old but gold: males preferentially cannibalize young eggs

Original Article


Although counterintuitive at first sight, filial cannibalism is common in the animal kingdom and has been recognized as a mechanism to increase the cannibalizing parent’s lifetime reproductive success. However, previous evidence is often inconclusive and the adaptiveness of filial cannibalism is still not fully understood. We here address the notion that parents do not cannibalize at random but preferably consume offspring with a particular phenotype. To assess if differences in developmental stage and thus reproductive value of eggs trigger such selectivity, we experimentally presented male common gobies (Pomatoschistus microps) with two differently aged egg clutches within mixed broods. We found that males consumed significantly more young than old eggs. This result indicates that parents are not only able to discriminate between eggs based on developmental stage, but might use this to reduce the cost of partial filial cannibalism by selectively removing eggs of lower reproductive value.


Foster care Life history evolution Offspring age Paternal care Reproductive value Selective filial cannibalism Kin discrimination 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Animal Evolutionary EcologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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