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  • 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.

  • The physiological mechanisms underlying variation in aggression in fish remain poorly understood. One possibly confounding variable is the lack of standardization in the type of stimuli used to elicit aggression. The presentation of controlled stimuli in videos, a.k.a. video playback, can provide better control of the fight components. However, this technique has produced conflicting results in animal behaviour studies and needs to be carefully validated. For this, a similar response to the video and an equivalent live stimulus needs to be demonstrated. Further, different physiological responses may be triggered by live and video stimuli and it is important to demonstrate that video images elicit appropriate physiological reactions. Here, the behavioural and endocrine response of male Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens to a matched for size conspecific fighting behind a one-way mirror, presented live or through video playback, was compared. The video playback and live stimulus elicited a strong and similar aggressive response by the focal fish, with a fight structure that started with stereotypical threat displays and progressed to overt attacks. Post-fight plasma levels of the androgen 11-ketotestosterone were elevated as compared to controls, regardless of the type of stimuli. Cortisol also increased in response to the video images, as previously described for live fights in this species. These results show that the interactive component of a fight, and its resolution, are not needed to trigger an endocrine response to aggression in this species. The study also demonstrates for the first time in a fish a robust endocrine response to video stimuli and supports the use of this technique for researching aggressive behaviour in B. splendens.

Last update from database: 12/2/22, 12:23 PM (UTC)