Male nest site fidelity and female serial polyandry in lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus, Hexagrammidae)


Jacquelynne R. King, Fax: 1(250) 756-7053; E-mail:


Nest site fidelity and serial polyandry were examined in lingcod, Ophiodon elongatus, a teleost fish in which the nest-guarding male parent invests more heavily in parental care than the elusive female parent. Lingcod parental and progeny genotypes were established for fish spawning on a 200 m2 section of Snake Island reef, British Columbia in two successive years to evaluate male and female mate choice (monogamy or polygamy) and nest site reuse by the same parents (nest site fidelity) and/or different parents (nest site affinity). Thirteen nests (egg masses) guarded by nine males and 14 nests guarded by seven males were observed in 2002 and 2003, respectively. No female laid more than one nest per season or spawned in the study area in both years. In contrast, at least six (86%) and possibly all seven (100%) of the 2003 guardian males had been guardian or auxiliary males in 2002. Both nest site affinity and extreme male nest site fidelity were observed, with at least four males reusing the exact same nest site. Serial polyandry resulting from the high male and low female nest site fidelity is consistent with predictions based on a low female parental investment and high rate of progeny loss to predation and cannibalism. Male polygyny, achieved primarily by cuckoldry within seasons, was enhanced by the lack of female fidelity between seasons. Polygamy in both sexes of nest-tending marine fish may minimize reproductive skew and maximize genetic diversity within populations.