The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Publication

Parker, A., and I. Kornfield. 1996. Polygynandry in Pseudotropheus zebra, a cichlid fish from Lake Malawi. Environmental Biology of Fishes 47 (4): 345-352.  

Parental care in the Malawian cichlid fish Pseudotropheus zebra 'BB' is extensive and exclusively maternal; males contribute only genetic material. The costs of searching for multiple mates (in this case risk of predation on orally incubated eggs) suggested that females should be monandrous; microsatellite genetypes of seven brooding females and their young, however, reveal extensive multiple paternity in this species, with a mean of 3.8 paternal individuals per brood. Polygynandry in P. zebra is probably not maintained by selection for genetically diverse offspring; potential explanations include avoidance of inbreeding, and bet-hedging on other male characteristics that females are unable to evaluate when selecting a mate. The observed degree of multiple paternity strongly suggests that females are free to choose mates as they will, a prerequisite of many theories positing sexual selection as a key element in Malawi cichlid evolution. It should also result in elevation of effective population sizes, and thus be antagonistic to runaway evolution of male secondary sexual characteristics, but not necessarily to other modes of sexual selection.




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