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Parental Roles and the Amount of Care In a Bi-Parental Substrate Brooding Cichlid: The Effect of Size Differences Within Pairs

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Parental roles and the amount of care in bi-parental fish have been assumed to be determined by sex. We studied the parental behaviour in a substrate brooding cichlid Julidochromis ornatus (40-90 mm in total length) in which both parents participate in care of eggs and young. In the study population, ca 80% of paired females were larger than their partners and pairs mated assortatively for size. Males spent more time with their offspring in female-largest pairs, whereas the opposite was found for male-largest pairs. These differences in the amount of care were more conspicuous when differences in body size were greater, whereas similar sized pairs shared parental tasks. These results suggest that the amount of parental care is largely affected by the relative size within pairs independent of sex in J. ornatus. However, the frequencies of defensive behaviours were not different in both female-largest and malelargest pairs. This indicates that parental roles would not completely change as the change of the body size difference within pairs. The larger parents were socially dominant over the partners regardless of sex, and observations of aggressive behaviours within pairs suggest that the larger fish are likely to make the partners perform parental care. Higher frequencies of aggressive encounters were observed in the similar-sized pairs than in the different-sized ones. Higher costs associated with frequent aggressive behaviours in the similar-sized pairs may be related to their small brood size, and may be partly responsible for the size-assortative mating with sexual size difference in this fish.

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