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Ventilation or nest defense—parental care trade-offs in a fish with male care

Journal article
Authors Maria Lissåker
Charlotta Kvarnemo
Published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume 60
Pages 864–873
Publication year 2006
Published at Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology
Pages 864–873
Language en
Keywords Fanning expenditure, Filial cannibalism, Low oxygen, Parental effort, Reproductive success
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Ethology and behavioural ecology


Brood guarding animals face many critical trade-offs. Sand goby males (Pomatoschistus minutus) build nests with larger openings during low oxygen conditions, presumably to enhance ventilation. However, this may make the nest easier for egg predators to detect and harder for guarding males to defend. Manipulating oxygen level and predator presence (a small crab) for small and large males, we found support for a parental trade-off between fanning and nest defense. An increased fanning activity resulted in less time for guarding. Small males and males in low oxygen showed a higher fanning expenditure than large males and males in high oxygen, but surprisingly, filial cannibalism did not differ between these groups. Males built larger nest openings in low than high oxygen. However, males in both high and low oxygen treatments reduced their nest opening size in the presence of a predator, again indicating an important trade-off between ventilation and nest defense

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