Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 5, pp 735–739 | Cite as

Mating behavior and rapid concealing of nuptial coloration in males of the Fishgod Blenny Malacoctenus ebisui (Teleostei: Blenniiformes)

  • Cristian M. Galván-Villa
  • Philip A. Hastings


Courting males often face the trade-off of attracting the attention of both females and predators. Rapid color change, a relatively simple solution to this dilemma, is described for nuptial males of the Fishgod Blenny Malacoctenus ebisui (Teleostei: Blenniiformes) from direct observations at three rocky reefs in the Mexican Pacific. Nuptial males showed three dark bars on a white background that covered the anterior part of the body, and three dark bars posteriorly forming a solid dark patch along the midline. The head was black with a prominent white area on the lower portion of the iris of each eye, two white patches on the upper jaw, and one central white patch on the lower jaw. When an intensely colored male was disturbed the white patches on the eyes quickly disappeared, while the other white markings became muted apparently by rapid expansion of melanophores. This relatively simple system permits males of the Fishgod Blenny to rapidly suppress their conspicuous coloration in response to perceived threats. Mating behavior of the Fishgod Blenny observed at Bahia Chamela is similar to that reported for other labrisomid blennies, with males repeatedly nudging the side of the female and both sexes alternately performing quivering movements.


Reef fish Color patterns Mating behavior Trade-offs Safety assurance hypothesis Tropical eastern Pacific 



We thank Marimar Ponce for providing us the photos of nuptial male from Marietas and the Whiteley Center, Friday Harbor Laboratories and UCSD Academic Senate for support to PAH. Thanks to anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions that improved the manuscript. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards as approved in UCSD protocol S02118.

Supplementary material

10641_2018_733_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (163.1 mb)
Movie S1 Malacoctenus ebisui mating in a rocky reef of Isla Cocinas (19°33′5” N, 105°06′37” W), Bahía Chamela, Mexico. (MP4 166,966 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristian M. Galván-Villa
    • 1
  • Philip A. Hastings
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Ecosistemas Marinos y Acuicultura, Departamento de EcologíaCentro Universitario de Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias, Universidad de GuadalajaraZapopanMexico
  2. 2.Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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