How Similar is the Coordination of Parental Roles Among Different Pairs? An Examination of a Monogamous Fish


Corresponding author: M. Itzkowitz, Department of Biological Sciences, 31Williams Hall, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA. E-mail:


Although most studies on biparental care assume that parents cooperate in raising offspring, few studies have documented how parents coordinate their activities. Using the biparental convict cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatum) we compared the parental behavior of both single (‘widowed’) parents and individuals within pairs during the 5 d when the offspring were in the relatively uniform and stationary wriggler stage. In particular, we were interested in the consistency of day-to-day parental activities among single individuals and among individuals within pairs. Single parents showed differences in most parental activities that were consistent from one day to the next. This day-to-day consistency remained after an intruder was added and / or the mate was present. Thus, although the social context changed (i.e., presence or absence of mate, presence or absence of an intruder), an individual's consistency remained. The male and female within pairs were significantly correlated in the time spent on most parental activities across experimental pairs. Thus, while individuals within pairs were unique in their performance of a parental activity, paired males and females managed a high degree of correlation (i.e., coordination). In general, pairs were homogeneous in the degree to which males and females were correlated across different parental activities.