Reproductive success of parasitized males in a marine reef fish

Paul J. Mensink, Shane W. Geange, Jeffrey S. Shima

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Parasitism is hypothesized to reduce reproductive success in heavily parasitized males because females
may preferentially mate with less parasitized males (parasite-mediated sexual selection) or parasites may compromise
male competitiveness. In marine systems, this hypothesis is largely unexplored. This paper provides the first confirmed record of a copepod ectoparasite (Caligus buechlerae Hewitt 1964) on the common triplefin (Forsterygion lapillum) and evaluates the hypothesis that males parasitized with C. buechlerae experience lower reproductive success than unparasitized males (as determined
by the presence and area of eggs within male nests). We found that 38 % of males we surveyed were infected with
at least one C. buechlerae, with a median of two individuals per infected male. About 32 % of males were defending
eggs, with 62.5 % of those males infected with at least one parasite. Males of greater total length (TL) were both
more likely to be infected and more likely to be defending eggs. However, when statistically accounting for the effects
of TL, parasite infection had no effect on the probability of defending eggs, or the average surface area of eggs when
present. Positive covariation in fish length, the presence of eggs and parasite infection observed here potentially suggest
that the importance of parasitic infection on reproductive success may depend upon the strength of selection for larger male body size. Our study is one of the few studies to investigate the effects of ectoparasites on reproductive success in reef fish and also provides a quantitative measure of infection for a widespread species within New Zealand.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2689-2696
Number of pages8
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number11
Early online date11 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2014


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