Photo: bathyporeia (Flickr)
In 2004, scientists documented something that rarely happens in the lab: parental courtship behavior. What that term means is it’s when an animal shows off its parenting skills to attract a mate. A common assumption in biology is that reproductive behavior conflicts with parenting behavior, since the more energy an animal spends on parenting, the less energy it has to spend on courting and mating.
What researches found with the sand goby is different from that rule. The Sand Goby is a small fish native to the European coast. It’s among the twenty percent of fish species that exhibit parenting behavior.
A Good Father Only Nibbles
Sand gobies nest under sea shells, and the males not only defend the nests, but also hollow them out. Then, once the eggs are laid, they use their pectoral fins to fan them, creating a current of oxygenated water that helps the eggs mature.
When female sand gobies weren’t around, the males were more likely to ignore their parenting duties. Worse, while all male sand gobies occasionally nibble their eggs, male sand gobies without their female counterparts around were more likely to devour the eggs whole.
But when the female sand gobies were around, the males spent less time nibbling and more time fanning their eggs and working on their nests. This was especially true for sand gobies with larger nests, maybe because bigger nests provide room for additional mating.
Sources And Further Reading:
- University Of Florida. “For A Male Sand Goby, Playing ‘Mr. Mom’ Is Key To Female’s Heart.” ScienceDaily. )
- Christophe Pampoulie, Kai Lindström, Colette M. St. Mary; Have your cake and eat it too: male sand gobies show more parental care in the presence of female partners. Behavioral Ecology 2004; 15 (2): 199-204. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arg107
- Saaristo, Minna, John Craft, Kari Lehtonen, and Kai Lindström. “An endocrine disrupting chemical changes courtship and parental care in the sand goby.” An endocrine disrupting chemical changes courtship and parental care in the sand goby. May 10, 2010. Accessed February 02, 2017.
- “Luontoportti.” Sand goby, Pomatoschistus minutus – Fishes – NatureGate. Accessed February 02, 2017.