Father, do not eat thy son

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Science  28 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6409, pp. 1351-1352
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6409.1351-c

Rhabdoblennius nitidus males destroy their eggs to reset fertility.


Being a parent is costly in many ways. In hard times, some animal parents resort to desertion, abortion, or even cannibalism. Such behaviors may allow adults to regain energy reserves and bank them for reproduction under more favorable conditions. Matsumoto et al. studied filial cannibalism in caregiving male blennies (Rhabdoblennius nitidus). These fish cannot court additional females while guarding eggs because their androgen supplies are suppressed by the presence of the eggs. Hormone synthesis only resumes in the fathers when all the eggs are removed, but not necessarily eaten, from a blenny's nest. Thus, the blennies eschew cannibalism in favor of infanticide to rapidly reset their reproductive physiology. In this way, they gain another chance at courtship and potentially a bigger clutch of eggs.

Curr. Biol. 28, 2831 (2018).

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