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Fin size and associated fanning behaviour as indicators of reproductive status in male round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus)

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Determination of male reproductive status in the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) can be challenging because current metrics do not always reflect steroid production. In many fishes, fin size changes during the reproductive season; therefore, fins may provide additional information about reproductive status. In some species, fin size correlates with fanning behaviour; a trait common in fish species that exhibit male parental care as it is important for egg maintenance. Because male fanning begins before spawning, fanning also may play a role in pheromone dispersal and courtship, potential indicators of reproductive status. Initially, we examined which morphological metrics (head width, total length, condition, fin size) best delineated groups of reproductive and non-reproductive male gobies (determined using the gonadosomatic index, GSI). Surface areas of fused pelvic fins and caudal fins best separated these groups of males. Using video recordings of nest-guarding male gobies, we characterised both pectoral and caudal fanning behaviour. Rates of maximum caudal fanning (fin beats per minute) were higher than rates of pectoral fanning; however, caudal fanning overall was less frequent than pectoral fanning. Subsequently, we determined if fanning metrics were related to 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), GSI and morphological traits. No relationship was found between any of the fanning or morphological metrics and GSI values or 11-KT. However, there was a significant relationship between the maximum pectoral fanning rate and condition factor of males. These findings suggest that relative fin size, but not fanning behaviours, may be useful metrics to measure reproductive status.

Affiliations: 1: aDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada N9B 3P4; 2: bBamfield Marine Sciences Center, Bamfield, BC, Canada V0R 1B0


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