Nonapeptides mediate trade-offs in parental care strategy

Ross DeAngelis, Logan Dodd, Justin Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parental care represents a suite of distinct behaviors performed by parents to maximize fitness. Dynamic shifts in parental care behaviors, such as between nest defense and direct provisioning of the offspring, are required in response to environmental variation. However, the neural mechanisms which mediate such behavioral shifts remain a mystery. The anemonefish, Amphiprion ocellaris, represents an experimentally valuable model in social neuroscience which is conducive to manipulating the environment while simultaneously measuring parental care. The goal of this study was to determine the extent to which arginine vasotocin (AVT) and isotocin (IT) signaling are necessary for males to shift between direct egg care and aggressive nest defense in the presence of intruders, Domino damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus). The IT receptor antagonist desGly-NH2-d(CH2)5[D-Tyr2,Thr4]OVT, significantly reduced direct egg care, while at the same time increased levels of aggressive nest defense relative to vehicle. Conversely, blockade of AVT using the antagonist d(CH2)5[Tyr(Me)2]AVP, reduced aggression and tended to increase egg care. Results demonstrate that male anemonefish alter their parental strategy in response to allospecific intruders, and that IT and AVT signaling oppositely regulate parental care displays of aggression versus egg care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104717
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Aggression
  • Anemonefish
  • Nonapeptides
  • Parental care
  • Parental strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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