Male bluegill sunfish are shown to have two alternative mating strategies: cuckoldry or parental care. Cuckolder males first mature at age 2. They follow a developmental sequence of sneaking and then mimicking female behavior to deceptively gain access to spawnings. Males who become parentals (construct nests, attract females, provide brood care) delay maturation until age 7. The parental investment of these males is parasitized by the cuckolders. This system is an example of a truly parasitically dependent mating strategy in vertebrates. A natural selection model is developed to predict the equilibrium frequencies of the two male types. A preliminary test of the model provides qualitative agreement.
National Academy of Sciences
sexual selection, breeding systems, parental care, cuckoldry, frequency-dependent selection
Gross, M.R. and E.L. Charnov. 1980. Alternative male life histories in Bluegill Sunfish. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 77:6937-6940