Félix, P.M., Amorim, M.C.P., Pereira, T.J., Fonseca, P.J., Sousa-Santos, C. & Costa, J.L. (2016) Feeding ecology and life-history strategy of nesting males in a fish with long parental care, Lusitanian toadfish (Halobatrachus didactylus, Batrachoididae).Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 96(3), 657-665. DOI:10.1017/S0025315415001022 (IF2016 1,038; Q3 Marine and Freshwater Biology)
The Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus, like other batrachoidids, is a benthic fish species with nesting behaviour during the breeding season. During this prolonged period it engages in mating activities and remains in the nest providing parental care. It is not known whether males feed while providing parental care but it is likely that their limited mobility may restrict their diet and influence their fitness. As a consequence, egg cannibalism could occur as a life-history strategy. The aim of the present study is to ascertain the feeding behaviour of nesting males, in comparison to mature non-nesting males, and to identify potential life-history traits related to egg cannibalism. Nest-holders were sampled from artificial nests placed in an intertidal area of the Tagus estuary, only exposed during spring low tides. The diet of nest-holders was compared with that of non-nesting mature males from the same area, captured by otter trawl. The present study demonstrates that despite their constrained mobility nest-holders feed during the breeding season, although in a more opportunistic fashion than non-nesting males. Nest-holders showed a generalist feeding behaviour, with a more heterogeneous diet. Egg cannibalism was not related to male condition, paternity or brood size but showed a higher incidence early in the season when water temperatures were lower. The results suggest a possible seasonal trade-off strategy between care and energy recovery, triggered by environmental factors, where under unfavourable conditions to sustain viable eggs the male may recover energy by eating eggs, thus benefiting future reproductive success, later in the season.