Parental Investment and Division of Labor in the Midas Cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum)


  • William Rogers

    Corresponding author
    1. Zoology Department, University of California, Berkeley
      Department of Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94170, U.S.A.
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Department of Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94170, U.S.A.


The Midas cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum) is an aggressive, monogamous fish living in the Great Lakes of Nicaragua. Its breeding success rates are low due to intense competition for breeding sites and high levels of predation on the young.

Male Midas cichlids devote a small portion of body weight to gonads and gametes compared with females. Males produce relatively small amounts of sperm perhaps because cichlid fertilization is very efficient and the male has a high certainty of paternity.

While pair members invest equal amounts of time in parental care over the course of the breeding cycle, there is a clear division of labor. Males invest more in territorial protection than do females, whereas females provide more nurturance. Both parents are active over the course of the cycle but the male invests more intensely in the early stages of the cycle. About the time the eggs hatch, the burden of care shifts to the female and she continues to invest significantly more than the male over the remainder of the cycle.

Females invest much more than do males when tissue investment and parental behavior are combined. Females also assume more of the burden of care as the brood matures. The male is not free to take advantage of this and leave his mate to initiate other broods because two parents are needed to defend the breeding site and brood. Monogamy with biparental care results.