First field evidence for alloparental egg care in cooperatively breeding fish

By Josi, Dario & M. Taborsky, J.G. Frommen

Ethology, v. 125(n. 3), pp. 164-169 (Mar-2019). DOI: 10.1111/eth.12838

" Helping behaviour in cooperative breeders has been intensively studied in many animal taxa, including arthropods, birds and mammals. In these highly social systems, helpers typically engage in brood care and the protection of dependent young. Such helping systems also exist in cooperatively breeding cichlid species of Lake Tanganyika. However, breeding in these species happens in clefts, narrow holes or shelters underneath stones. Therefore, direct brood care by breeders and helpers has thus far only been observed under artificial laboratory conditions. Under natural conditions, brood care behaviour has been estimated indirectly by determining the time spent in the breeding chamber, or by the number of visits to the breeding chamber. The reliability of such substitutes needs to be validated, for instance, by demonstrating alloparental egg care of helpers through direct observations in nature. Here, we describe direct egg care by a male helper of the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus savoryi in the field. The helper inspected and cleaned the eggs and defended them against predators. By reconstructing the genetic relatedness using microsatellite markers, we show that the helper was the son of the breeding male, but unrelated to the breeding female. The genetic mother of the helper was defending a different territory next to the one where the helper showed alloparental egg care. This indicates that the helper had dispersed inside the male territory to assist another female to care for his half‐siblings. These results demonstrate alloparental egg care without reproductive share in a fish species under natural conditions, underlining that helping behaviour in cooperatively breeding fish has a strong non‐self‐serving component "

Classification: Behavior, Lake Tanganyika.

Language: English

Josi, Dario & M. Taborsky, J.G. Frommen. 2019. "First field evidence for alloparental egg care in cooperatively breeding fish". Ethology. v. 125(n. 3), pp. 164-169 (crc09363) (abstract)