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Pipefish embryo oxygenation, survival, and development: egg size, male size, and temperature effects

Journal article
Authors Malin Nygård
Charlotta Kvarnemo
I. Ahnesjo
I. B. Goncalves
Published in Behavioral Ecology
Volume 30
Issue 5
Pages 1451-1460
ISSN 1045-2249
Publication year 2019
Published at Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CEMEB)
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 1451-1460
Language en
Keywords body condition, brood reduction, embryo density, embryo size, embryo, survival, male pregnancy, male size, oxygen provisioning, Syngnathidae, micropterus-dolomieui pisces, male smallmouth bass, male parental care, atlantic salmon, brood-pouch, body-size, sexual selection, male, pregnancy, mate choice, sand goby
Subject categories Biological Sciences


In animals with uniparental care, the quality of care provided by one sex can deeply impact the reproductive success of both sexes. Studying variation in parental care quality within a species and which factors may affect it can, therefore, shed important light on patterns of mate choice and other reproductive decisions observed in nature. Using Syngnathus typhle, a pipefish species with extensive uniparental male care, with embryos developing inside a brood pouch during a lengthy pregnancy, we assessed how egg size (which correlates positively with female size), male size, and water temperature affect brooding traits that relate to male care quality, all measured on day 18, approximately 1/3, of the brooding period. We found that larger males brooded eggs at lower densities, and their embryos were heavier than those of small males independent of initial egg size. However, large males had lower embryo survival relative to small males. We found no effect of egg size or of paternal size on within-pouch oxygen levels, but oxygen levels were significantly higher in the bottom than the middle section of the pouch. Males that brooded at higher temperatures had lower pouch oxygen levels presumably because of higher embryo developmental rates, as more developed embryos consume more oxygen. Together, our results suggest that small and large males follow distinct paternal strategies: large males positively affect embryo size whereas small males favor embryo survival. As females prefer large mates, offspring size at independence may be more important to female fitness than offspring survival during development.

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