Threat-sensitive Nest Preferences in Male Upland Bullies, Gobiomorphus breviceps


Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. E-mail:


A male's ability to acquire and defend a nest site against competitors is an important requirement for successful breeding in many fish species. In the upland bully Gobiomorphus breviceps (Eleotridae), not all males are successful in gaining ownership of nesting rocks; therefore, male-male competition may be important in nest acquisition. Although larger nests have the potential to hold more eggs, in nature there is a preferred nest size well below the maximum available. I found that in over 88% of dyadic contests, the larger male was successful in acquiring the single nesting site provided. When males were individually given a choice of two artificial nest rocks, they consistently preferred the larger nest. These results suggest that larger males have the ability to occupy the largest nests. In the presence of a trout predator, males preferred nests with three closed sides 93% of the time. This preference disappeared when the threat was a conspecific. This shows that while males were choosing the larger nests their decisions were also threat-sensitive.