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Nonrandom brood mixing suggests adoption in a colonial cichlid
March 20, 2013
1:13 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Behavioral Ecology (2013) 24 (2)

Abstract

Parental care of unrelated offspring is widespread but not well understood. We used 11 polymorphic microsatellite loci to investigate the relatedness of fry and parentally caring adults in a 118-nest colony of the socially and genetically monogamous cichlid fish Neolamprologus caudopunctatus in Lake Tanganyika. There was a high proportion of brood mixing, with 59% of 32 broods containing fry unrelated to both parents and 18% of all 291 sampled fry being unrelated to the breeding pair. There was no evidence of kin selection for adoption because the genetic and foster parents were not more related than expected by chance. Parentage was assigned to 12 adopted fry from 10 broods. Distances traversed by fry varied markedly, from less than 1 to over 40 m. The larger distances suggest that at least some brood mixing was instigated by parents transporting portions of their broods in their mouths, as occurs in some cichlids. Further evidence of nonrandom brood mixing was that foreign fry did not differ in size from their foster siblings within broods, even though they were significantly larger than fry produced by the tending pairs within the colony. These findings suggest that at least some foreign fry had dispersed nonrandomly and were adopted by their foster parents. Enlarged broods are known to provide reduced per capita predation, making it potentially adaptive for breeders to adopt unrelated offspring.

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