You eat what you are: Personality-dependent filial cannibalism in a fish with paternal care

MA Vallon, C Grom, N Kalb, D Sprenger, N Anthes, Kai Lindström, KU Heubel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Many animal parents invest heavily to ensure offspring survival, yet some eventually consume some or all of their very own young. This so-called filial cannibalism is known from a wide range of taxa, but its adaptive benefit remains largely unclear. The extent to which parents cannibalize their broods varies substantially not only between species, but also between individuals, indicating that intrinsic behavioral differences, or animal personalities, might constitute a relevant proximate trigger for filial cannibalism. Using a marine fish with extensive paternal care, the common goby (Pomatoschistus microps), we investigated the influence of animal personality on filial cannibalism by assessing (1) behavioral consistency across a breeding and a nonbreeding context; (2) correlations between different breeding (egg fanning; filial cannibalism) and nonbreeding (activity) behaviors, and, in a separate experiment; (3) whether previously established personality scores affect filial cannibalism levels. We found consistent individual differences in activity across contexts. Partial filial cannibalism was independent of egg fanning but correlated strongly with activity, where active males cannibalized more eggs than less active males. This pattern was strong initially but vanished as the breeding season progressed. The incidence of whole clutch filial cannibalism increased with activity and clutch size. Our findings indicate that filial cannibalism cannot generally be adjusted independently of male personality and is thus phenotypically less plastic than typically assumed. The present work stresses the multidimensional interaction between animal personality, individual plasticity and the environment in shaping filial cannibalism.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1340–1352
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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