Marine Biology

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 89–99 | Cite as

Sex change limited by paternal care: a test using four Mediterranean labrid fishes, genus Symphodus

  • R. R. Warner
  • P. Lejeune


Four species of the Mediterrnean wrasse (genus Symphodus) were investigated under natural conditions near Calvi, Corsica, France, to test the idea that extensive male mating-investment limits the extremes of male reproductive success, and thus reduces selection for protogynous sex change. The four species differ in the extent to which males build nests and care for the eggs, and this sort of paternal care can detract from time spent in mating. In S. ocellatus and S. roissali larger males construct an elaborate nest, ventilate the eggs, and engage in territorial defense. The spawning rates for these males are relatively low and variable due to long periods spent in nest construction and egg tending. They also suffer a large amount of interference from smaller males, which may be due to the predictability of nest location. Sex change appears to be absent. S. tinca males construct only a rudimentary nest, do not ventilate the eggs, and experience much less spawning interference. Large males are relatively more successful in mating in this species, and sex change appears to occasionally occur. The large males of S. melanocercus spawn at a much higher rate than small males, due in part to the fact that they do not construct or defend nests and thus are able to spawn on a daily basis. Sex change appears to be common in this species. Thus, the species that shows the greatest sexual difference in changes of expected fertility with size is also the species that shows the strongest expression of sex change. Studies such as this can begin to indicate the actual costs of changing sex.


Sexual Difference Natural Condition Reproductive Success Defend Daily Basis 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. R. Warner
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. Lejeune
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of California at Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.Station de Recherches Sous-Marines et Océanographiques (STARESCO)Calvi (Haute-Corse)France

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