Sexual selection arises through variation in reproductive success. This thesis investigates different aspects important in sexual selection, namely nest building, sperm competition, paternity and paternal care, and their mutual interrelationships. In the studied species, the sand goby (Pomatoschistus minutus) and the common goby (Pomatoschistus microps), sperm competition did arise when small males, so called sneakers, sneaked into other males nests and released sperm. They seemed to use female behaviour as their prime cue for a sneaking opportunity. However, also nest-holders, both with and without eggs, were found to fertilize eggs in the nests of other males.
Clearly, nest-holding males tried to prevent other males from spreading their sperm in their nests, since they showed aggression towards such males. A nest building experiment indicated that the small nest-openings found in the sneaker male treatment were sexually selected through protection against sneaking or by female choice. Yet, no behavioural or genetical support for the hypothesis that the nest functions as a physical or visual defence, or that sneaker males prefer to sneak upon nests with wide nest-openings, were found in the other studies. Still, individual nest-holding males showed a higher mucus preparation effort inside the nest in the presence of a sneaker male than when alone. In close relatives, such mucus contains sperm, suggesting an importance in sperm competition. However, the mucus may also have pheromone and anti-bacterial functions and may constitute a mating effort, as found in other gobies. Both a behavioural and a mate choice experiment suggested that the males were not less eager to spawn in the presence of a sneaker male.
Sneak intrusion did not affect nest defence, fanning or filial cannibalism, nor had paternity an effect on filial cannibalism. This and various life history aspects, together with the fact that the parasitic male only fertilized a fraction of the clutches, would predict females to ignore sneaker males. This was also the case, as the presence of sneaker males was found not to affect female spawning decision. Still, several females spawned in two nests, which coincided with parasitic spawnings, suggesting a cost of disturbance for the females and thus a substantial cost to the nest-holding males in terms of lost mating success. However, females paid attention to other traits in their choice of mate since spawning was associated with sand volume of the nest, but not with nest-opening width. Also, female (but not male) courtship was correlated with partial clutch filial cannibalism, indicating that females are able to anticipate future male cannibalism.
In a partial correlation of nest opening, sand volume, male courtship display, displacement fanning and male size, a large number of traits were correlated both positively and negatively with regard to how we may expect them to be appreciated by females. For instance, males which fan well also build large nests or display intensely (but not both). Together with all the other results of this thesis, this shows the entangled selection pressures working on breeding animals, as well as the different male and female tactics employed to maximize their reproduction.
Stockholm: Zoologiska institutionen , 2004. , 43 p.
Female choice, Filial cannibaism, Gobiidae, Nests, Paternal care, Pomatoschistus microps, Pomatoschistus minutus, Sexual selection, Sperm competition, Teleostei
2004-12-17, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 C, Stockholm, 10:00