Sex and status in a cooperative breeding fish: behavior and androgens

J.K. Desjardins, K.A. Stiver, John Fitzpatrick, N. Milligan, G.J. Van Der Kraak, S. Balshine

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    60 Citations (Scopus)


    Among taxonomically widespread cooperatively breeding vertebrates, those with non-breeding helpers-at-the-nest provide an excellent opportunity to understand the proximate mechanisms underlying care and allocare. In this study, we examined androgen levels in relation to care behavior in a cooperatively breeding cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher, from Lake Tanganyika. We concentrated on androgens, as these hormones have been linked to the defense behavior, and the defense of young is a common form of parental care in fishes. N. pulcher dominant female breeders performed the most care and also displayed the highest levels of plasma testosterone (T) compared with other individuals within the social group. We also found that dominant male breeders provided a similar amount of care as did the subordinate helpers, but breeding males had the highest levels of 11-ketotestosterone (11KT), an important androgen in fish. Breeders had higher levels of both androgens (T and 11KT) compared to helpers. There was a weak but significant positive correlation between T levels and the frequency of care regardless of sex and status. Our results suggest that androgens may promote defense of young and are in contrast to the commonly reported trade-off between androgen and parental care.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)785-794
    JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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