The Effect of an Experimental Brood Reduction on Male Desertion in the Panamanian Blue Acara Cichlid Aequidens coeruleopunctatus


Manuel J. Vélez Department of Zoology, University of Florida, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, FL 32611–8525, USA. E-mail:


Investment in present vs. future reproduction is a life-history trade-off faced by many animals. Because males generally pay a higher cost from lost mating opportunities than females, males are expected to react more strongly to changes in brood value. We examined the effect of an experimental brood reduction on male desertion in the substrate-brooding biparental cichlid Aequidens coeruleopunctatus under field conditions. We tested the prediction that brood reduction should decrease the duration of male care and examined the effect of brood reduction on the quality of male and female parental care. Our results show that males with reduced broods stopped providing parental care earlier than males with control broods. Males with reduced broods, however, also stayed longer with their broods as the season progressed. Brood reduction did not decrease daily investment in male or female parental care. We conclude that males trade off present and future reproduction by changing the duration but not the quality of parental care. The longer duration of male care in the experimental group later in the season suggests that the trade-off between present and future reproduction changes as the season progresses because the payoffs of desertion progressively decrease.