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The effect of maternal body size on embryo survivorship in the broods of pregnant male pipefish

Journal article
Authors Kenyon B. Mobley
Charlotta Kvarnemo
Ingrid Ahnesjö
Charlyn Partridge
Anders Berglund
Adam G. Jones
Published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume 65
Pages 1169-1177
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology
Pages 1169-1177
Language en
Keywords Brood reduction, Clutch size, Parental care, Sibling competition, Sexual selection . Syngnathidae
Subject categories Ethology and behavioural ecology


The occurrence of male pregnancy in the family Syngnathidae (seahorses, pipefishes, and sea dragons) provides an exceptionally fertile system in which to investigate issues related to the evolution of parental care. Here, we take advantage of this unique reproductive system to study the influence of maternal body size on embryo survivorship in the brood pouches of pregnant males of the broad-nosed pipefish, Syngnathus typhle. Males were mated with either two large females, two small females, a large then a small female, or a small then a large female. Our results show that offspring survivorship depends on an interaction between female body size and the number of eggs transferred by the female. Eggs of larger females deposited in large numbers are more likely to result in viable offspring than eggs of smaller females laid in large numbers. However, when females deposited smaller numbers of eggs, the eggs from smaller females were more likely to produce viable offspring compared to those from larger females. We found no evidence that this result was based on mating order, the relative sizes of competing females, or egg characteristics such as dry weight of eggs. Additionally, male body size did not significantly influence the survivorship of offspring during brooding. Our results suggest that the factors underlying offspring survivorship in pipefish may be more complex than previously believed, with multiple factors interacting to determine the fitness of individual offspring within the broods of pregnant males.

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