Amorim, M.C.P., Conti, C., Sousa-Santos, C., Novais, B., Gouveia, M.D., Vicente, J.R., Modesto, T., Gonçalves, A. & Fonseca, P.J. (2016). Reproductive success in the Lusitanian toadfish: influence of calling activity, male quality and experimental design.Physiology & Behavior, 155, 17-24. DOI:10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.11.033 (IF2016 2,341; Q2 Behavioral Sciences)
Acoustic signals are sexual ornaments with an established role on mate choice in several taxa, but not in fish. Recent studies have suggested that fish vocal activity may signal male quality and influence male's reproductive success but experimental evidence is lacking. Here we made two experiments to test the hypothesis that vocal activity is essential for male breeding success in a highly vocal fish, the Lusitanian toadfish. We first compared the reproduction success between muted and vocal males. In a second experiment we related male reproduction success with acoustic activity and male quality, including biometric, condition and physiological features. As a proxy for reproductive success we tallied both total number and number of sired eggs, which were correlated. Muting experiments showed that successful mating was dependent on vocalizing. In addition, the number of eggs was positively associated with the male's maximum calling rate. In the second experiment male's reproductive success was positively associated with male condition and negatively related with circulating androgen levels and relative gonad mass, but was not associated with vocal activity. Differences in results may be related with nest design which could have influenced mate choice costs and intra-sexual competition. In the muting experiment nests had a small opening that restrained the large nest-holder but allowed smaller fish, such as females, to pass while in the second experiment fish could move freely. These experiments suggest that a combination of factors, including vocal activity, influence reproductive success in this highly vocal species.