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Free Content Influence of Energy Reserves on the Expression of a Secondary Sexual Trait in Male Bicolor Damselfish, Stegastes Partitus

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Recent theoretical investigations suggest that male energy reserves may often play a central role in sexual selection because of their influence on male secondary sexual characteristics. However, the importance of male energy reserves to mating systems is at present difficult to evaluate because of the paucity of studies in which energy reserves are experimentally manipulated. Previous research on the bicolor damselfish, a marine species with exclusive male parental care of eggs, showed that courtship is an indicator of male parental quality and that females use courtship to distinguish among potential mates. In addition, preliminary results suggested that courtship rate and parental quality may both be a function of male energy reserves. The objective of this study was to experimentally manipulate male energy reserves in a natural population of bicolor damselfish by diet augmentation, and thereby determine the effects of energy reserves on courtship rates. The diet augmentation experiment strongly influenced male courtship rates. As predicted, fed males courted at higher rates than unfed males, and courtship was an increasing function of body fat. Contrary to the prediction that the courtship rates of unfed males would remain the same before and after the diet augmentation experiment, however, courtship rates of unfed males decreased significantly. This may indicate that in addition to the strong effect of the diet augmentation experiment on courtship rate, other factors such as changes in the availability of natural food and social interactions among males also influenced courtship rates. Although male energy reserves are known to influence the expression of secondary sexual characters in birds, amphibians, and freshwater fishes, the results of this study demonstrate that similar processes can also operate in marine fishes.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1995-11-01

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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