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Nutritional state - a survival kit for brooding pipefish fathers

Journal article
Authors Gry Sagebakken
Charlotta Kvarnemo
I. Ahnesjo
Published in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume 121
Issue 2
Pages 312-318
ISSN 0024-4066
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 312-318
Language en
Keywords brood reduction, condition, embryo mortality, immunity, parental care, Syngnathidae, Syngnathus typhle, role-reversed pipefish, parental care, life-history, syngnathus-typhle, species syngnathidae, cannibalistic behavior, filial cannibalism, fish, evolution, allocation, Evolutionary Biology, earns sc, 1989, functional ecology, v3, p259
Subject categories Biological Sciences


A parent's nutritional state may influence its ability to provide care to offspring and ability to handle infections. In the broad-nosed pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, males care for their offspring by brooding the developing embryos in a brood pouch, providing nutrients and oxygen, resembling a pregnancy. Here, we demonstrate that the nutritional state of pregnant males covaries with their own survival during a selective event. Brooding males surviving a Vibrio sp. infection were in a significantly better nutritional state, as estimated by their hepatosomatic index. Furthermore, a higher nutritional state of the brooding male correlated with a lower embryo mortality, while feeding treatment (low vs. high) had no effect on male survival, nutritional state or embryo mortality. Finally, males brooding heavier embryos also showed a lower embryo mortality. This may reflect a maternal effect (if large eggs result in higher embryo survival), a paternal effect (if higher provisioning of male care promotes both embryo growth and survival), or a combination thereof (males caring more for large embryos). The results demonstrate the importance of a good nutritional state for a caring parent when their immunity is challenged.

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