Parental care sex differences in the brown bullhead, Ictalurus nebulosus (Pisces, Ictaluridae)

TitleParental care sex differences in the brown bullhead, Ictalurus nebulosus (Pisces, Ictaluridae)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1986
AuthorsBlumer LSteven
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

Males were the principal care-givers in the brown bullhead, Ictalurus nebulosus. Direct observations on individually tagged adults in nature revealed that males attended broods at closer distances than females and were the most frequent lone care-givers. However, females often participated in parental care and in some cases assumed the typical male role in the absence of the male. In the presence of her mate, females generally performed different care-giving functions than males. Females attended broods at a distance and chased other fishes more frequently than males. Males remained directly over the brood guarding. A series of mated pairs in each of three reproductive conditions were captured and examined. Different pairs were compared between reproductive conditions for body weight, body condition, gonadal-somatic index, and a gut-contents index. The initial costs of reproduction, as measured by weight loss, condition change, and gonadal-somatic index change, were more severe in females than males. During breeding and subsequent care-giving, males did little or no feeding whereas females increased their feeding during the same time period. However, males appeared to sustain only minor weight and condition losses due to care-giving. I suggest that males were the principal care-givers because the net benefits of remaining at the nest were greater than the net benefits of leaving. Males had little opportunity to mate with more than one female each season, and offspring had little chance of survival in the absence of a care-giving adult. Considerable variation in female behavior occurred which suggests that the net benefits of care-giving were nearly balanced with the net benefits of leaving the brood. The relative importance of feeding versus care-giving by females may vary with slight differences between females and the behavior of their mates as care-givers.