Territory quality, male quality, courtship intrusions, and female nest-choice in the threespine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus

Robert Carig Sargent

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84 Scopus citations


In a recent study (Sargent & Gebler 1980), we allowed male sticklebacks to compete for a limited number of clay flowerpots as nest sites in circular wading pools. Although the males who nested in post enjoyed higher reproductive success (Sargent & Gebler 1980), a further analysis of these data revealed the males in these two classes did not differ significantly with regard to territory size, total courtships, and female rejections of the nest. In the present study, for the first half of the experiment, flowerpots were assigned randomly to half of the males nesting in wading pools; the pots were later taken from those males who first had them and were given to the remaining males for the second half of the experiment. Using paired comparisons, each male's performance was examined with and without a flowerpot. The males received more female nest-choices, and fewer intrusions from other males, when their nests were in flowerpots; however, the females appeared to engage in courtships with males independently of the males' nest site concealment. For the two classes of nest site concealment, the males were not significantly heterogeneous for the number of nest-choices that they received: thus male quality did not appear to directly affect female nest-choice. These results suggest that territory quality, in the form of nest site concealment, was the most important determinant of female nest-choice and male reproductive success in the experiments of Sargent & Gebler (1980). Females appear to minimize the risk of egg-cannibalism by spawning with those males who experience the least amount of courtship interference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-374
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1982

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank G. C. Williams and M. A. Bell for advice and criticism throughout this study; J. B. Gebler and J. V. Baumgartner for valuable assistance; S. Cohen, L. Brown, and S. K. Li for criticizing this manuscript; F. J. Rohlf and R. R. Sokal for advice on experimental design; J. D. McPhail for introducing me to the Gasterosteus in Western Canada; and the Program in Neurobiology and Behavior at SUNY, Stony Brook, for laboratory facilities. Sticklebacks were collected from the field with the cooperation of the Marine Sciences Research Center, SUNY, Stony Brook; the Long Island State Park Commission; and the personnel of the Orient Beach State Park. This research was partially funded by two awards from the Lerner Fund for Marine Research through the American Museum of Natural History. The manuscript is a part of my doctoral dissertation and it constitutes contribution number 379 fi'om the Program in Ecology and Evolution, SUNY, Stony Brook.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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