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Brooding fathers, not siblings, take up nutrients from embryos

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Gry Sagebakken
I Ahnesjö
K.B. Mobley
Ines Goncalves
Charlotta Kvarnemo
Publicerad i Proceedings of the Royals Society B
Volym 277
Nummer/häfte 1683
Sidor 971–977
ISSN 0962-8452
Publiceringsår 2010
Publicerad vid Zoologiska institutionen, ekologisk zoologi
Sidor 971–977
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.1767
Ämnesord brood reduction; embryo absorption; female competition; post-mating
Ämneskategorier Etologi och beteendeekologi


It is well known that many animals with placenta-like structures provide their embryos with nutrients and oxygen. However, we demonstrate here that nutrients can pass the other way, from embryos to the parent. The study was done on a pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, in which males brood fertilized eggs in a brood pouch for several weeks. Earlier research has found a reduction of embryo numbers during the brooding period, but the fate of the nutrients from these ‘reduced’ embryos has been unknown. In this study, we considered whether (i) the brooding male absorbs the nutrients, (ii) siblings absorb them, or (iii) a combination of both. Males were mated to two sets of females, one of which had radioactively labelled eggs (using 14C-labelled amino acids), such that approximately half the eggs in the brood pouch were labelled. This allowed us to trace nutrient uptake from these embryos. We detected that 14C-labelled amino acids were transferred to the male brood pouch, liver and muscle tissue. However, we did not detect any significant 14C-labelled amino-acid absorption by the non-labelled half-siblings in the brood pouch. Thus, we show, to our knowledge, for the first time, that males absorb nutrients derived from embryos through their paternal brood pouch.

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