Sex Differences in Retrieval Behavior by the Biparental Convict Cichlid


Jennifer L. Snekser, Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, 111 Research Dr., Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA.


Biparental species occasionally demonstrate a division of roles in which parents perform sex-typical tasks, with females offering direct care and spending the majority of their time with the offspring while males are more indirect in their care, providing the majority of defense against potential brood predators. To examine the flexibility in the sex-typical roles shown by convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata), we displaced non-swimming young at three different distances from the nest and then analyzed the retrieval behaviors of each parent. Retrieval of altricial young is a behavior commonly used to measure parental care in mammalian studies, but has rarely been used in other taxa. We found sex differences in retrieval behavior: on average, females retrieved young close to the nest and males retrieved young far from the nest. This difference in parental contribution suggests a division of labor with sex-specific roles. Sex differences may be due to proximity to young and/or apparent risk of offspring predation. Additionally, we found that latency to first retrieval and total time spent retrieving young remained consistent across the various displacement distances, suggesting that retrieval is an essential parental behavior. Additionally, we include observations of wriggler retrieval by parents in a natural population of Costa Rican convict cichlids.