Egg Care in Triggerfish





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Published on Mar 10, 2010

Maternal care of offspring is rare among coral reef fishes with external fertilization but is known in several species of haremic triggerfish (Thresher 1984). Both male and female triggerfish establish territories where several females belong to each male’s territory. It is proposed that the evolution of maternal care in triggerfish resulted since female territories in a harem do not overlap and females only spawn within their territories so a males reproductive fitness would be less by guarding eggs as females in their harem would reproduce with other males (Kuwamura 1997). Kawase (2003) reported biparental care in a species of triggerfish (Xanthichthys mento), but with males having minimum involvement in guarding the eggs. Females care for the demersal eggs until hatching by blowing water and guarding them from intruders, which commonly occurs the first night after being laid in the early morning. Parental care is necessary for eggs to survive and hatch (Kuwamura 1997). The following footage shows a female triggerfish guarding her nest from intruders attempting to prey on her eggs.

Cinematography: Dr. Stuart Sandin
Edited by: Neilan Kuntz
Written by: Neilan Kuntz
Location: Palmyra Island, Line Islands, Central Pacific (2004)

Kawase, H. (2003). Spawning behavior and biprental egg care of the crosshatch triggerfish, Xanthichythys mento (Balistidae) Envronmental Biology of Fishes 66: 211-219

Kuwamura, T. (1997). Evolution of Female Care in Haremic Triggerfish, Rhinecanthus aculeatus. Ethology 103:1015-1023

Thresher, R.E. (1984). Reproduction in Reef Fishes. T. F. H. Publ., Neptune.


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