Nesting on high: reproductive and physiological consequences of breeding across an intertidal gradient
Nest site selection is a critical parental decision with profound fitness consequences, yet the physiological consequences of these decisions are rarely examined. Certain fishes and other aquatic organisms construct nests and provide parental care in the intertidal zone—an environment characterized by fluctuating water levels, which can exert intermittent and sometimes extreme abiotic stress on the animals that live there including dramatic changes in temperature and dissolved oxygen level. In this study, we used the plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus, to test whether (1) nest site preferences and reproductive success vary across an intertidal elevation gradient, and (2) fish that nest at higher elevations pay greater physiological costs due to prolonged exposure to more extreme abiotic conditions. We found that fish preferred nests lower in the intertidal zone, with larger males outcompeting smaller males for these sites. Broods at high elevations suffered greater offspring mortality than broods at lower elevations. The average microhabitat temperature of nests was also warmer and more variable at higher elevations compared to lower elevations. While isolated from the ocean during low tides, care-giving parents increased their use of anaerobic metabolism, and potentially draw upon oxygen reserves in the swim bladder. Our results suggest that the choice of nesting location can have profound effects on a parent’s physiology and may generate significant variation in reproductive success among individuals.
KeywordsAbiotic stress Parental care Beach spawning Nest site selection Male competition Toadfish
We are indebted to Chuck and Sally Flader as well as Eileen Carr and family for providing lodging and access to the field sites. We also thank J. Miller, N. Houpt, E. Sadler, N. Brown, M. Lapstra, K. Cogliati, and C. Hiltz for assistance with field work. This work was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grants to SB and GRS (Grant Nos. 222854-2011 and 418202-2012). Additional funding was provided to AB by the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University. Analyses reported in this article can be reproduced using the data provided in the Supplementary Materials.
AB, SB, BB, and GRS conceived and designed the study. AB and SB conducted the field work. BB conducted the laboratory assays. AB analyzed the data. AB and BB wrote the paper with input from all co-authors.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
No competing interests declared.
- Bergmeyer HU (1983) Methods of enzymatic analysis, 3rd edn. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Brantley RK, Bass AH (1994) Alternative male spawning tactics and acoustic signals in the plainfin midshipman fish Porichthys notatus Girard (Teleostei, Batrachoididae). Ethology 96(3):213–232. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.1994.tb01011.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Collette B, Acero A, Betancur R, Cotto A, Rojas P (2010) Porichthys notatus. The IUCN red list of threatened species. Version 2014.3. www.iucnredlist.org. Accessed 21 Nov 2018
- Dunn JF, Hochachka PW (1986) Metabolic responses of trout (Salmo gairdneri) to acute environmental hypoxia. J Exp Biol 123:229–242Google Scholar
- Fretwell SD (1972) Populations in a seasonal environment (no. 5). Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Kabacoff R (2011) R in action: data analysis and graphics with R. Manning Publications Co., GreenwichGoogle Scholar
- Lisser DF, Lister ZM, Pham-Ho PQ, Scott GR, Wilkie MP (2016) Relationship between oxidative stress and brain swelling in goldfish (Carassius auratus) exposed to high environmental ammonia. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 312(1):R114–R124. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00208.2016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Madsen T, Shine R (1999) Life history consequences of nest-site variation in tropical pythons (Liasis fuscus). Ecology 80(3):989–997. https://doi.org/10.1890/0012-9658(1999)080%5b0989:LHCONS%5d2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Martin KL, Swiderski DL (2001) Beach spawning in fishes: phylogenetic tests of hypotheses. Am Zool 41(3):526–537. https://doi.org/10.1668/0003-1569(2001)041%5b0526:BSIFPT%5d2.0.CO;2 Google Scholar
- Pinheiro J, Bates D, DebRoy S, Sarkar D, R Core Team (2016) _nlme: Linear and nonlinear mixed effects models_. R package version, pp 3.1–128, http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=nlme
- R Core Team (2016) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna. http://www.R-project.org/
- Raffaelli D, Hawkins S (eds) (1996) Intertidal ecology. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Refsnider JM, Janzen FJ (2010) Putting eggs in one basket: ecological and evolutionary hypotheses for variation in oviposition-site choice. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 41:39–57. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-102209-144712 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Richards JG (2009) Metabolic and molecular responses of fish to hypoxia. In: Richards JG, Farrell AP, Brauner CJ (eds) Fish physiology, vol 27. Academic Press, London, pp 443–485Google Scholar
- Scherle W (1970) A simple method for volumetry of organs in quantitative stereology. Mikroskopie 26(1):57–60Google Scholar
- Smyder EA, Martin KLM (2002) Temperature effects on egg survival and hatching during the extended incubation period of California grunion, Leuresthes tenuis. Copeia 2:313–320. https://doi.org/10.1643/0045-8511(2002)002%5b0313:TEOESA%5d2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar