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Cardoso, S. D., Faustino, A. I., Costa, S. S., Valério, F., Gonçalves, D., & Oliveira, R. F. (2017). Social network predicts loss of fertilizations in nesting males of a fish with alternative reproductive tactics. Acta Ethologica, 20(1), 59–68. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-016-0249-9
Alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) evolve when there is strong intra-sexual competition between conspecifics for access to mates. Typically, larger “bourgeois” males reproduce by securing the access to reproductive resources while smaller “parasitic” males reproduce by stealing fertilizations from larger males. A number of factors can influence the reproductive success of each tactic, including intrinsic (e.g. size) and extrinsic (e.g. tactic relative frequency) variables. An example where plastic ARTs occur is the peacock blenny Salaria pavo, with large males reproducing by defending nests and attracting females (bourgeois tactic) and small males reproducing by achieving sneaked fertilizations (parasitic tactic). In this study, we conducted field observations on individually tagged animals to determine their social network and collected eggs from 11 nests to determine the fertilization success of each male tactic. Paternity estimates for 550 offspring indicated an average fertilization success for nest-holder males of 95%. Nest-holder male morphological traits and social network parameters were tested as predictors of fertilization success, but only the number of sneakers present in the nest-holder’s social networks was found to be a predictor of paternity loss. Although male morphological traits had been previously found to be strongly correlated with reproductive success of nest-holder males, as measured by the number of eggs collected in the male’s nest, no correlation was found between any of the measured morphological traits and fertilization success for these males. The results suggest a stronger influence of the social environment than of morphological variables in the proportion of lost fertilizations by nest-holder males of this species.