Allopaternal care in the fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas: females prefer males with eggs

L. M. Unger, R. C. Sargent

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154 Scopus citations


Some species of fishes with exclusive male parental care exhibit the phenomenon of allopaternal care; that is, some males acquire and care for other males' eggs. We conducted a series of experiments to investigate the dynamics and evolution of allopaternal care in one such species, the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). In choosing a nest site, a newly reproductive male tended to take over the nest site of a parental male by evicting the resident male, rather than occupy a physically identical empty nest site. The new male generally cared for the old male's eggs, and in most cases, daily egg survival improved under the new male's care. When males were given a choice among unguarded nest sites, they preferred to occupy nest sites already containing eggs. When eggs were randomly assigned to nesting males, females preferred to spawn with males who had eggs in their nest sites. Thus, it appears that female preference for males with eggs led to the evolution of allopaternal care in the fathead minnow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-32
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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