Influence of behavior and mating success on brood-specific contribution to fish recruitment in ponds

Joseph J. Parkos, David H Wahl, David P. Philipp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One source of uncertainty in predicting the response of populations to exploitation is individual differences within a population in both vulnerability to capture and contribution to population renewal. For species with parental care, individuals engaged in nesting behavior are often targeted for exploitation, but predicting outcomes of this nonrandom vulnerability will depend in part on an understanding of how parental traits are related to potential for brood contribution to the population. Variation in brood-specific contribution to recruitment of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), a fish species with extended parental care, was quantified to determine if differences in mating success, parental care behaviors, and timing of reproduction influenced offspring recruitment. Dependence of these relationships on brood predation was tested in communities that differed in the presence of bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus, an important nest predator. Daily snorkel surveys were conducted in experimental ponds during spring to monitor male spawning and parental care behaviors in populations of largemouth bass. Tissue samples collected from larvae in nests were used to develop brood-specific DNA fingerprints for determining nest origins of fall recruits. Largemouth bass spawning period in bluegill ponds was longer and more variable in duration, with lower, more variable mating success, than in ponds without bluegill. In all populations, only one or two broods provided the majority of recruits, and these were broods produced during the earliest days of spawning by the oldest, largest males. In bluegill ponds, brood contribution from earliest nests also increased with brood size. Earliest nesters were the oldest males, and recruits from these nests were often above average in body size. Offspring needed to be guarded to at least swim-up larval stage to contribute any recruits. Termination of parental protection before offspring were free swimming mainly occurred with broods guarded by smaller males in ponds with brood predators. These age-and size-specific differences in timing of spawning and duration of parental care are consistent with influences of residual reproductive value and energetic constraints on reproductive behavior. Furthermore, these patterns of individual contribution to recruitment imply that fisheries that selectively target either nesting individuals or larger, older males could potentially decrease recruitment at the population scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2576-2586
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Bluegill sunfish
  • Fisheries
  • Largemouth bass
  • Lepomis macrochirus
  • Mating success
  • Micropterus salmoides
  • Parental care
  • Recruitment
  • Timing of reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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