A Moment of Science

Single Fish Female Seeks Good Father

If you're a single parent, could the parental qualities you present attract a mate? It may not work for humans, but some fish find this scenario very effective.

Recently, scientists documented what is known as parental courtship behavior in the lab. That’s when an animal shows off its parenting skills to attract a mate.

University of Florida Researchers studied the sand goby, a small fish native to the European coast that is among the twenty percent of fish species that exhibit parenting behavior.

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.

They also nibble on their eggs. But here’s the interesting thing. The scientists observed that when there were female sand gobies 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.

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