Publication details

Group intrusions by a brood parasitic fish are not cooperative



Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Behavioral Ecology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords brood predation; cichlid fishes; cuckoo catfish; host; parasite
Description Brood parasites relegate all parental duties to unrelated hosts. Host resistance against brood parasitism is most effective during egg laying and is best countered by surreptitious oviposition. This may be aided through distraction of host attention by the male partner or a larger cooperative group. Cuckoo catfish (Synodontis multipunctatus) parasitize the broods of mouthbrooding cichlids, which collect their eggs immediately after oviposition. Cuckoo catfish must time their intrusion precisely, as the temporal window for parasitism lasts only a few seconds. As the cuckoo catfish typically intrude host spawning as a group, we tested whether groups of catfish distract spawning cichlid pairs more successfully than a single catfish pair. We found that larger catfish groups were not more effective in parasitism, as parasitism success by groups of three catfish pairs increased only proportionally to single catfish pairs. The number of cichlid eggs in host clutches decreased at high catfish abundance, apparently due to elevated cuckoo catfish predation on the eggs. Hence, group intrusions do not represent cooperative actions, but incur an increased cost to the host cichlid from greater egg predation by cuckoo catfish.

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