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Influence of Population Density On the Territorial, Courting and Spawning Behaviour of Male Chromis Cyanea (Pomacentridae)

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In a population of C. cyanea on the reef off Curaçao, areas with a high and a low population density could be distinguished. Differences in behaviour were found to exist between territorial males of the two areas. During territorial behaviour high density males showed less nest maintenance behaviour and more aggressive behaviour than low density males. During courtship the low density males showed more courting actions than high density males. The latter spent more time on the nest, and succeeded in attracting females in a way different from that of low density males. Also during courtship the high density males showed more aggression than low density ones. The same was true during spawning behaviour. Besides, high density males showed less mating actions than low density ones. The observed differences in behaviour could partly be attributed to differences in external stimulus situation in the two areas. Another part of the behavioural differences, however, were due to differences in the internal state of the males in the two areas. This difference in internal state was attributed to the frequent activation of the behavioural system controlling aggressive actions in high density males. Activation of this system was thought to result in inhibition of the system controlling the nest actions, thus making the nest maintenance and mating actions less likely to occur. The activation of the aggressive system was also thought to affect the courtship in such a way that high density males performed less courting actions. It was shown that the different tactics used in courtship were effective in the area in which they were performed. High density males could rely on staying on the nest waiting for a female to approach them, while low density males had to perform an elaborate courtship performance to lure the females to the nest. To explain this phenomenon it was assumed that the motivation of the female for spawning becomes gradually more favourable through the successive and/or simultaneous influence of bouts of courtship behaviour, irrespective of the courtship being performed by one or by more males. The evolutionary aspects of the observed behavioural differences is discussed. It seems that in the two areas different strategies exist, which enhance the behavioural flexibility of the population. Apparently, in observing the behaviour of C. cyanea, one has to take into account that in different parts of the population different behavioural processes may play a role.

Affiliations: 1: Caribbean Marine Biological Institute, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles


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