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Socially induced tactic change in 2 types of sand goby sneaker males

Journal article
Authors T. Takegaki
Ola Svensson
Charlotta Kvarnemo
Published in Behavioral Ecology
Volume 23
Issue 4
Pages 742-750
ISSN 1045-2249
Publication year 2012
Published at Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CEMEB)
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 742-750
Language en
Keywords alternative reproductive strategies, bourgeois, genetic polymorphism, Gobiidae, seminal vesicles, alternative mating tactics, zosterisessor-ophiocephalus teleostei, gobius-niger teleostei, male bluegill sunfish, pomatoschistus-minutus, reproductive strategies, genetic-polymorphism, sperm competition, grass, goby, phenotypic plasticity, borsky m, 1994, advances in the study of behavior, vol 23, v23, p1
Subject categories Ecology


Male alternative reproductive tactics, like satellite or sneaking tactics, typically parasitize reproductively on a larger resource-holding tactic. In the sand goby, Pomatoschistus minutus, 2 types of sneaker males are known. Sneaker males with melanization, a typical male breeding coloration, have small testes and large sperm-duct glands, and sneaker males without melanization have large testes and small sperm-duct glands. We tested their potential to change into the nest-holding tactic experimentally by keeping them with or without a large nest-holding male. With nest-holding males, neither sneaker male type built nests. However, without nest-holding males, a large proportion of both types of sneaker males built nests and became nest-holders, and all the nest-building nonmelanized sneaker males developed melanization. Furthermore, nest-building nonmelanized sneaker males had larger sperm-duct glands (used to produce a sperm-containing mucus) than nonnest-building nonmelanized sneaker males. However, contrary to our expectation, treatment did not affect testes size. Compared with melanized sneaker males nonmelanized sneaker males tended to have a lower proportion of nest-building males and showed significantly less reproductive activity, especially in the early experimental period. Finally, in a separate experiment, we confirmed that nonmelanized sneaker males that build nests can spawn and tend eggs normally. Taken together, our results suggest that these tactics are not genetically or ontogenetically fixed but condition dependent. However, this does not exclude an underlying genetic variation in phenotype expression.

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