Aggressive nest guarding behavior of sergeant major damselfish (Abudefduf saxatilis) in association with guarding male and nest size

Among fish that lay their eggs on the ground (demersal) and have external fertilization (oviparous), typical parental care includes building a nest, then cleaning and guarding it as an investment in the fitness and survival of their offspring. Male Caribbean sergeant major damselfish, Abudefduf saxatilis, take on a darker coloration when they prepare a nest and engage in mating rituals, then guard and aerate their nest. Aggression of the guarding A. saxatilis could be linked to a number of factors. Nest size, size of the guarding fish is, or age of the nest may all affect nest guarding territoriality. Based on observational data collected in Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean, there was no association between aggression (attack rate or average response distance) the guarding fish size (fork length), nest area, number of eggs, or age of the nest. Aggression was found to correlate with time of day, which may have been due to higher abundance of egg predators later in the day. Nest guarding aggression and parental care are complex behaviors that are largely species and context specific, making it difficult to make true predictions about aggressive behavior.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XVII (Spring 2015)19: 58-68 from CIEE Bonaire.

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