Female sand gobies gain direct benefits by choosing males with eggs in their nests
In some fish species with paternal care, females prefer to spawn with males whose nests already contain eggs. Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain this behaviour, such as reduced risk of predation or cannibalism (the dilution effect), increased parental investment, and mate copying. This experimental study focuses on female mate choice in the sand goby, Pomatoschistus minutus. Females were found to choose males with eggs in their nests. In addition, hatching success increased with clutch size, mainly because males with larger clutches showed less filial cannibalism. Increased egg survival in large clutches may thus be explained by a combination of the dilution effect and higher parental investment. In another experiment, females did not seem to copy the observed mate choice of other females. In conclusion, female preference for males with eggs in their nests is adaptive, and can be explained by direct benefits, as more surviving offspring are produced.
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