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Filial Cannibalism Improves Survival and Development of Beaugregory Damselfish Embryos

Adam G. Payne, Carl Smith and Andrew C. Campbell
Proceedings: Biological Sciences
Vol. 269, No. 1505 (Oct. 22, 2002), pp. 2095-2102
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3558871
Page Count: 8
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Filial Cannibalism Improves Survival and Development of Beaugregory Damselfish Embryos
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Abstract

Cannibalism of small numbers of offspring by a parent has been proposed as an adaptive parental strategy, by providing energy to support parental care. However, there are few empirical studies to support this hypothesis. We conducted field and laboratory experiments to investigate partial filial cannibalism in Stegastes leucostictus, a coral reef fish with paternal care. Partial cannibalism was shown to be common, and males were found to remove developing embryos from throughout a clutch in a random pattern, rather than in the more aggregated pattern seen during embryo predation. Males that received a diet supplement grew faster than control males, but did not engage in less cannibalism. Also, males did not concentrate cannibalism on early embryonic stages with the highest energetic value. Experimental reduction of embryo densities was found to significantly increase embryo development rate and survival from egg deposition to hatching, and experimental reduction of oxygen levels significantly increased rates of partial filial cannibalism by males. Artificial spawning sites with low oxygen levels were avoided by spawning females, and cannibalism rates by males were higher. We propose that partial filial cannibalism serves as an adaptive parental strategy to low oxygen levels in S. leucostictus by increasing the hatching success of embryos.

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