Many species display alloparental care, where individuals care for offspring that are not their own, but usually the behavior is contingent on the individual receiving some direct or indirect benefit. In anemonefish, after removing the breeding male, non-breeders have been observed providing care for eggs they did not sire and which are not kin. Previously this behavior was interpreted as coerced by the female. The purpose of this study was to test the alternative hypothesis that the alloparental care occurs spontaneously without prodding by the female. Groups of Amphiprion ocellaris (male, female and non-breeder) were maintained in the laboratory and behavior monitored after removing the male and both the male and female. Non-breeders began to care for eggs after male removal and further increased parental care after male and female removal. Level of care was not as high as experienced males, but additional experiments showed performance increases with experience. In a separate experiment, non-breeders were placed alone in a novel aquarium and eggs from an established spawning pair were introduced. Approximately 30% of the fish displayed extensive fathering behavior within 90 min. Taken together, our results demonstrate that fathering behavior in A. ocellaris occurs spontaneously, independent of paternity or kinship.
ASJC Scopus subject areas