Paternal inheritance of growth in fish pursuing alternative reproductive tactics

Ecol Evol. 2013 Jun;3(6):1614-25. doi: 10.1002/ece3.570. Epub 2013 Apr 28.


In species with indeterminate growth, age-related size variation of reproductive competitors within each sex is often high. This selects for divergence in reproductive tactics of same-sex competitors, particularly in males. Where alternative tactics are fixed for life, the causality of tactic choice is often unclear. In the African cichlid Lamprologus callipterus, large nest males collect and present empty snail shells to females that use these shells for egg deposition and brood care. Small dwarf males attempt to fertilize eggs by entering shells in which females are spawning. The bourgeois nest males exceed parasitic dwarf males in size by nearly two orders of magnitude, which is likely to result from greatly diverging growth patterns. Here, we ask whether growth patterns are heritable in this species, or whether and to which extent they are determined by environmental factors. Standardized breeding experiments using unrelated offspring and maternal half-sibs revealed highly divergent growth patterns of male young sired by nest or dwarf males, whereas the growth of female offspring of both male types did not differ. As expected, food had a significant modifying effect on growth, but neither the quantity of breeding substrate in the environment nor ambient temperature affected growth. None of the environmental factors tested influenced the choice of male life histories. We conclude that in L. callipterus growth rates of bourgeois and parasitic males are paternally inherited, and that male and female growth is phenotypically plastic to only a small degree.

Keywords: Alternative life histories; Lamprologus callipterus; cichlids; paternal genetic effects; reproductive strategies.