Variable Parental Care in a Labrid Fish: How Care Might Evolve


  • Eric P. van den Berghe

    Corresponding author
    1. University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Biological Sciences
    2. University of Maryland, Appalachian Environmental Laboratory, Frostburg
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University of Maryland, Appalachian Evironmental Laboratory, Gunter Hall, Frostburg, MD 21532, U.S.A.


Hypotheses for the evolution of parental care suggest several intermediate stages between no care and full care. To shed light on how care might evolve, I describe intermediate stages within one species. These include spawning behavior ranging from out-of-nest spawning, (which involves no parental care) to algal nests and associated male parental care (plus intermediate stages between the two previous categories), all observed in the same individual males of the peacock wrasse, Symphodus tinca. About 20% of males go through transitional stages from no care to full care as the season progresses. These stages are: 1) following females over large areas, 2) focusing on an area about 10 × 10 m, 3) chasing other fish, (both con- and heterospecific) from this area, 4) focusing spawns into a 1–2 m2 area that he modifies by adding algae, and 5) remaining with the site day and night until the eggs hatch and the young disperse. This sequence of stages is similar to the evolutionary sequence suggested by previous theory, but differs in that site limitation is not necessary in order to lead to site attachment.