Filial Cannibalism in the Biparental Fish Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum (Pisces: Cichlidae) in Response to Early Brood Reductions


Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6 Canada.


Filial cannibalism (eating one's own offspring) may enhance a parent's lifetime reproductive success if the costs associated with this behaviour are outweighed by its benefits. An organism might limit its parental care to relatively high quality offspring and eat the others. Or, an organism capable of repeated breeding in the same season might eat the survivors of a brood that was reduced by predators, and breed again. In this study, we manipulated brood size of convict cichlids by removing 0 % (control), 33 % (ER 33) or 66 % (ER 66) of the eggs spawned. The results show that smaller broods are more likely to be cannibalized by their parent(s) than are larger broods. Furthermore, pairs with reduced broods were preparing to respawn; female gonad weights were significantly higher in the brood-reduction groups than in the control group. In a second experiment, we show that the behaviour of the parents differed significantly between experimental groups; the ER 66 group performed less parental care than the control group. Moreover, females invested more parental effort than males. The results suggest that filial cannibalism may be a tactic used by parental convict cichlids to enhance their lifetime reproductive success.