Maternal food provisioning in a substrate-brooding African cichlid

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 9;9(6):e99094. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099094. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Fish demonstrate the greatest variety of parental care strategies within the animal kingdom. Fish parents seldom provision food for offspring, with some exceptions predominantly found in substrate-brooding Central American cichlids and mouth-brooding African cichlids. Here, we provide the first evidence of food provisioning in a substrate-brooding African cichlid Neolamprologus mondabu. This fish is a maternal substrate-brooding cichlid endemic to Lake Tanganyika, and feeds on benthic animals using unique techniques-individuals typically feed on the surface of sandy substrates, but also expose prey by digging up substrates with vigorous wriggling of their body and fins. Young also feed on benthos on the substrate surface, but only using the first technique. We observed that feeding induced by digging accounted for 30% of total feeding bouts in adult females, demonstrating that digging is an important foraging tactic. However, parental females fed less frequently after digging than non-parental females, although both females stayed in pits created by digging for approximately 30 s. Instead, young gathered in the pit and fed intensively, suggesting that parental females provision food for young by means of digging. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the feeding frequency of young before and after digging that was simulated by hand, and observed that young doubled their feeding frequency after the simulated digging. This suggests that parental females engage in digging to uncover food items that are otherwise unavailable to young, and provision food for them at the expense of their own foraging. This behavior was similar to what has been observed in Central American cichlids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cichlids / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food
  • Male
  • Reproduction

Grant support

This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (to KO) and Grants-in-Aid for Overseas Scientific Research (to MK) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.