Parental investment decision rules: a test in bluegill sunfish

Ronald M. Coleman, Mart R. Gross, Robert Craig Sargent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


We review parental investment decision theory and provide an experimental test of the decision rule used by male bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) in allocating parental investment to their young. The alternative decision rules tested are: (1) invest according to brood size (number) only; (2) invest according to past investment only; (3) invest according to both brood size and past investment; and (4) invest according to neither brood size nor past investment. By manipulating brood size independently of a male's cumulative investment in the brood, and by measuring each male's defensive behavior against a model predator, we found that male bluegill invest according to both brood size and past investment. This result is consistent with recent theory that past parental investment devalues adult future reproductive value, and that animals should therefore invest according to the value of their brood relative to that of their own expected future reproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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