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Sex-Role Reversal in the Black-Chinned Tilapia, Sarotherodon Melanotheron (RÜPpel) (Cichlidae)

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In the animal kingdom most species follow standard sex roles: males compete more intensely for mates and females exert greater mate choice. Recent theory suggests that the direction of sexual selection is the outcome of sexual differences in potential reproductive rates (PRRs): the sex with the higher PRR will compete for mates and the sex with the lower PRR will be most selective. This study tests the theory experimentally by examining competition for mates and mate choice in the black-chinned tilapia, Sarotherodon melanotheron, a paternal mouth brooding cichlid. In this species, the PRR of males is lower than that of females. In laboratory competition trials, females were more aggressive: they bit, chased and initiated mouth fights more often than males. Dominant females were also much better at monopolising potential mates compared to dominant males. A second experiment confirmed that males were choosy for size, preferring large partners over small ones, while females did not discriminate for size. Therefore, the prediction of sex role reversal (competitive females and discriminating males) is confirmed.

Affiliations: 1: Large Animal Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, U.K.; 2: Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, Scotland, U.K.


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