• Clutch size;
  • female ornament;
  • fish;
  • hatching success;
  • larval survival


  • 1
    Carotenoid-based ornamentation has often been suggested to signal mate quality, and species with such ornaments have frequently been used in studies of sexual selection.
  • 2
    Female Gobiusculus flavescens (Two-Spotted Goby) develop colourful orange bellies during the breeding season. Belly coloration varies among mature females, and previous work has shown that nest-holding males prefer females with more colourful bellies. Because males invest heavily in offspring during incubation, the evolution of this preference can be explained if colourful females provide males with eggs of higher quality.
  • 3
    We tested this hypothesis by allowing males to spawn with ‘colourful’ and ‘drab’ females and comparing parameters including egg carotenoid concentration, clutch size, hatchability and larval viability between groups. We also investigated relationships between egg carotenoid concentration and clutch quality parameters.
  • 4
    Eggs from colourful females had significantly higher concentrations of total carotenoids than drab females, and photographically quantified belly coloration was a good predictor of egg carotenoid concentration.
  • 5
    Colourful females produced slightly larger clutches, but female belly coloration was not related to any measure of clutch quality. In addition, there were no significant relationships between egg carotenoids and clutch quality. Females with high levels of egg carotenoids spawned slightly earlier, however, possibly because they were more ready to spawn or because of male mate choice.
  • 6
    Our results call into question the generality of a causal link between egg carotenoids and offspring quality.