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Female, but not male, agonistic behaviour is associated with male reproductive success in stable bluebanded goby (Lythrypnus dalli) hierarchies

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In many social species, there are important connections between social behaviour and reproduction that provide critical insights into the evolution of sociality. In this study, we describe associations between agonistic behaviour and male reproductive success in stable social groups of bluebanded gobies (Lythrypnus dalli). This highly social, sex-changing species forms linear hierarchies of a dominant male and multiple subordinate females. Males reproduce with each female in the harem and care for the eggs. Since aggression tends to be associated with reduced reproduction in social hierarchies, we hypothesized that males in groups with high rates of aggression would fertilise fewer eggs. We also hypothesized that a male’s agonistic behaviour would be associated with his reproductive success. Dominants often exert substantial control over their harem, including control over subordinate reproduction. To address these hypotheses, we quantified egg laying/fertilisation over 13 days and observed agonistic behaviour. We show that there was a significant, negative association between male reproductive success and the total rate agonistic interactions by a group. While no male behaviours were associated with the quantity of eggs fertilised, female agonistic behaviour may be central to male reproductive success. We identified a set of models approximating male reproductive success that included three female behaviours: aggression by the highest-ranking female and approaches by the lowest-ranking female were negatively associated with the quantity of eggs fertilised by males in their groups, but the efficiency with which the middle-ranking female displaced others was positively associated with this measure. These data provide a first step in elucidating the behavioural mechanisms that are associated with L. dalli reproductive success.

Affiliations: 1: aNeuroscience Institute, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 5030, Atlanta, GA 30302, USA; 2: bDepartment of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302, USA

10.1163/1568539X-00003188
/content/journals/10.1163/1568539x-00003188
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2014-09-02
2016-12-09

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