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Keywords:

  • convict cichlid;
  • biparental care;
  • sex differences;
  • widow

Abstract

Biparental care of young occurs when both parents provide some sort of care for offspring and can include a wide variety of behaviors, yet often studies focus on single aspects of parental care when trying to determine how each parent contributes. Here, we presented the biparental convict cichlid fish (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) with two conflicting parental behaviors: retrieval of non-swimming offspring that have been displaced from the nest and defense against a conspecific intruder, a potential brood predator. We examined single males, single females, and pairs of parents to determine how males and females each contributed to overall parental care. Traditionally in this species, parents exhibit a division of labor (in which each parent contributes to all parental activities), but also exhibit a division of roles (in which males tend to favor the role of defense and females tend to favor more direct care, spending more time with offspring). We hypothesized that single parents would compensate for their absent mate, but that males and females would still favor preferred roles. Additionally, we hypothesized that there would be an asymmetrical expansion of roles, with females being more flexible. Our results show that the preferred roles of both parents were evident even when parents were without their mates and that males and females differed in their compensatory levels, at least when compared to the behaviors of the intact pair. Contrary to our prediction, females seem unable to fully compensate for the defensive behaviors usually exhibited by males, while males shifted completely to retrieve displaced offspring.