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Quantifying mating success of territorial males and sneakers in a bower-building cichlid fish

Magalhaes, I. S.; Smith, A. M.; Joyce, D. A.


I. S. Magalhaes

A. M. Smith


The strategies and traits males evolve to mate with females are incredible in their diversity. Theory on the evolution of secondary sexual characters suggests that evolving any costly trait or strategy will pay off and stabilise in the population if it is advantageous compared to the alternative less costly strategy, but quantifying the relative success of the two can be difficult. In Lake Malawi, Africa, there are >200 species of cichlid fish in which the males form leks and spend several weeks per year building sand-castle “bowers” several times their size. We tested the idea that a less costly “sneaking” strategy could be successful by quantifying the mating success of bower-holding versus non-bower-holding males. We PIT-tagged every fish in a semi-natural experimental set-up and placed tag-readers on the side of bowers to determine which fish held a bower. We then genotyped the eggs removed from females’ mouths to assign paternity of each egg. Broods were fathered by up to 3 different males. Although paternity was mostly assigned to males that held a bower, a small number of males who did not own a bower were more successful than some of those that did, indicating a role for an alternative strategy in these bower builders.


Magalhaes, I. S., Smith, A. M., & Joyce, D. A. (2017). Quantifying mating success of territorial males and sneakers in a bower-building cichlid fish. Scientific reports, 7(1), Article 41128.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2017
Online Publication Date Jan 27, 2017
Publication Date Jan 27, 2017
Deposit Date Nov 3, 2017
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Scientific Reports
Print ISSN 2045-2322
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1
Article Number 41128
Keywords Behavioural ecology; Sexual selection
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