Costs and benefits of polygyny in the cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher

Julie K. Desjardins, John L. Fitzpatrick, Kelly A. Stiver, Glen J. Van der Kraak, Sigal Balshine

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    Polygyny is regarded as a beneficial strategy for males, whereas females mated with polygynous males (males simultaneously paired to more than one female) often suffer a reduction in pair male contributions. This study examined the costs and benefits associated with polygyny in the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher. In this species, males are facultatively polygynous; some males hold only one territory with one breeding female whereas other males hold multiple territories, each with its own breeding female. Polygynous males were larger than monogamous males and body-scraped less, a behaviour often associated with ectoparasite loads. Polygynous males also had larger testes (controlling for body mass) and higher circulating 11-ketotestosterone levels than monogamous males. Paradoxically, monogamous males occupied higher-quality territories with more shelter and fewer predators. Monogamous males also provided more parental care than polygynous males but the number and survival of young did not vary according to male mating behaviour. The results of our study suggest that females trade-off between male genetic quality and resources in N. pulcher. Our results imply that males holding only one territory may provide their mates with significant assets but may not be able to outcompete neighbours for additional breeding positions because of their small body size and possible higher parasite load. The lack of differences between monogamous and polygynous groups in terms of offspring survival (a measure of reproductive success) suggests that there may be few if any fitness consequences of polygynous pairing for females. © 2008 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1771-1779
    Number of pages8
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2008


    • cichlid
    • hormones
    • mating systems
    • Neolamprologus pulcher
    • parental behaviour


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