We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

#96: Male Pipefish Pick Their Litters

By Emily Elert
Dec 16, 2010 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 6:00 AM
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alligator_Pipefish_2.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a> | NULL


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Male sea horses have been lauded as the gallant “Mr. Moms” of the animal world, and pipefish, their close relatives, are devoted fathers too. The female pipefish injects eggs into the male, which then bears live young. But research published in March suggests these model dads are not being selfless: Pipefish treat their offspring well only if they really like their mates.

At Texas A&M, researcher Kimberly Paczolt mated Gulf pipefish in multiple trials. Previous studies had shown that the males, which breed with a single female at a time, show a preference for larger partners. Paczolt found that offspring of these attractive females had higher survival rates than those of their less comely kin. She suspects the males employ “cryptic choice,” a strategy of selecting a mother for their babies after mating has occurred. The father pipefish might do this by transferring more nutrients to broods mothered by attractive females and allowing less desirable broods to languish. “If it’s just the only female he’s been able to find and she isn’t particularly attractive, it may trigger a signal that says, ‘Hold off—I think I can do better in the future,’ ” Paczolt says.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.