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Free Content Intraspecific Egg Predation by Male Razorfishes (Labridae) During Broadcast Spawning: Filial Cannibalism or Intra-Pair Parasitism?

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During field studies, we observed approximately 550 broadcast spawns (sometimes called pelagic spawns), in which pairs release their gametes high in the water column for external fertilization, by three congeneric wrasses: green (Xyrichtys splendens), rosy (X. martinicensis) and pearly (X. novacula) razorfishes. The released eggs formed a cloud that remained visible for 3–5 s before dissipating. Male X. splendens and X. martinicensis ate ova from the cloud during approximately 40% of their spawns. Male X. novacula, and females of all three species, never ate ova. Our observations show that in fishes, parental care is not a prerequisite for filial cannibalism (the ingestion of one's own offspring), as was previously believed. Analysis of videotaped spawns showed that males were prepared to eat even before completion of the spawning act. We propose that males may control the amount of sperm they release when engaging in spawning rushes. The eating behavior should be adaptive for territorial male fishes, particularly those with multiple daily spawns (we observed up to 23 spawns per day), because parasitism of nutrients from females (via the ova) may increase the males' chances for future reproduction, consistent with intraspecific predation theory.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1994

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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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