Sunday, 8 March 2020
Although multiple males cohabit an environment with a single female, polygamy does not occur and only the adult pair exhibits reproductive behaviour. If the female dies, the social hierarchy shifts with the breeding male exhibiting protandrous sex reversal to become the breeding female.
The largest juvenile then becomes the new breeding male after a period of rapid growth. The existence of protandry in anemonefish may rest on the case that nonbreeders modulate their phenotype in a way that causes breeders to tolerate them. This strategy prevents conflict by reducing competition between males for one female. For example, by purposefully modifying their growth rate to remain small and submissive, the juveniles in a colony present no threat to the fitness of the adult male, thereby protecting themselves from being evicted by the dominant fish.
The reproductive cycle of anemonefish is often correlated with the lunar cycle. Rates of spawning for anemonefish peak around the first and third quarters of the moon. The timing of this spawn means that the eggs hatch around the full moon or new moon periods. One explanation for this lunar clock is that spring tides produce the highest tides during full or new moons. Nocturnal hatching during high tide may reduce predation by allowing for a greater capacity for escape. Namely, the stronger currents and greater water volume during high tide protect the hatchlings by effectively sweeping them to safety. Before spawning, anemonefish exhibit increased rates of anemone and substrate biting, which help prepare and clean the nest for the spawn.
In terms of parental care, male anemonefish are often the caretakers of eggs. Before making the clutch, the parents often clear an oval-shaped clutch varying in diameter for the spawn. Fecundity, or reproductive rate, of the females, usually ranges from 600 to 1500 eggs depending on her size. In contrast to most animal species, the female-only occasionally takes responsibility for the eggs, with males expending most of the time and effort. Male anemonefish care for their eggs by fanning and guarding them for 6 to 10 days until they hatch. In general, eggs develop more rapidly in a clutch when males fan properly, and fanning represents a crucial mechanism of successfully developing eggs.
This suggests that males can control the success of hatching an egg clutch by investing different amounts of time and energy towards the eggs. For example, a male could choose to fan less in times of scarcity or fan more in times of abundance. Furthermore, males display increased alertness when guarding more valuable broods, or eggs in which paternity was guaranteed. Females, though, display generally less preference for parental behavior than males. All these suggest that males have increased parental investment towards the eggs compared to females.