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Hypoxia increases the risk of egg predation in a nest-guarding fish

Journal article
Authors Karin H. Olsson
Charlotta Kvarnemo
Maria Norevik Andrén
Therése Larsson
Published in Royal Society Open Science
Volume 3
Issue 8
ISSN 2054-5703
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Keywords parental care, clutch cannibalism, low oxygen, egg predation, nest defence, male sand goby, male common gobies, pomatoschistus-minutus, dissolved-oxygen, filial cannibalism, valenciennea-longipinnis, parental, behavior, aquatic hypoxia, water-exchange, defense
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Ecology


For fish with parental care, a nest should meet both the oxygenation needs of the eggs and help protect them against predators. While a small nest opening facilitates the latter, it impedes the former and vice versa. We investigated how the presence of potential egg predators in the form of shore crabs Carcinus maenas affects nest building, egg fanning, defensive displays and filial cannibalism of egg-guarding male sand gobies Pomatoschistus minutus under two levels of dissolved oxygen. In the high oxygen treatment, males retained their nest opening size in the presence of crabs, while males in low oxygen built large nest openings both in the absence and presence of crabs, despite the fact that crabs were more likely to successfully intrude into nests with large entrances. Males in low oxygen also fanned more. In the presence of crabs males increased their defensive displays, but while males in high oxygen reduced fanning, males in low oxygen did not. Filial cannibalism was unaffected by treatment. Sand gobies thus prioritize egg ventilation over the protection afforded by small nest openings under hypoxia and adopt defensive behaviour to avert predator attention, even though this does not fully offset the threat from the egg predators.

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