Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are a diverse group of compounds that can mimic, block or modulate the synthesis of natural hormones. They are known to cause impairment of reproduction of aquatic organisms at very low concentrations. The aim of this study was to examine how exposure from 10 to 31 days to 17 alpha-ethinyl estradiol (EE2, 41 ng L(-1)) affects the courtship and parental care behaviour of male sand gobies (Pomatoschistus minutus). The sand goby exhibits a polygynous mating system, where males compete for females and provide paternal care. First, male courtship performance towards a stimulus female was recorded with video camera. Secondly, after the male had received eggs his parental care behaviour was video recorded. In addition to behavioural endpoints, we measured the expression of hepatic vitellogenin (Vtg) and zona radiata protein (Zrp) mRNA, as well as common somatic indices. Our study shows that exposure to EE2 affected male fanning behaviour during both courtship and parental care. Interestingly, small exposed males increased their courtship fanning to similar levels as larger control males. However, during parental care egg fanning was not related to male size, and all exposed males fanned more than control males. The EE2-exposure induced Vtg and Zrp mRNA expression in males and decreased hepatosomatic index (HSI), and increased gonadosomatic index (GSI). Females prefer males that fan more, which will favour the small EDC exposed males. This may lead to mating that favours males that are not strong enough to tend the eggs until they hatch, thus decreasing the reproductive success of individuals.
- Endocrine disrupting chemical
- Parental care
- Reproductive behaviour
- Sand goby