A quantitative assessment of the reproductive system of the Mediterranean cave‐dwelling triplefin blenny Tripterygion melanurus
Geertjes, G.J and Videler, J.J.
Abstract. The breeding biology of the cave‐dwelling Mediterranean triplefin blenny Tripterygion melanurus (Pisces, Blennioidei) was studied in the field. Two types of reproductive male were observed, territorial males and non‐territorial males. Territorial males establish territories for mating, but not necessarily for feeding, in caves and crevices at depths between 0.5 and 33 m. Territories can be settled in clusters in a single cave. Non‐territorial males occur in the vicinity of territories and attempt to parasitise matings of territorial males. Gravid females wait near territories where another female is spawning, rather than spawn with currently unmated territorial males. Waiting females intrude in matings and sometimes displace a spawning female. The frequency of mating of the territorial male, of sneaking and of female intrusions are higher in territories that border others than in isolated territories. Females may minimise predation risks both on themselves and on their eggs by spawning in clustered territories and by spawning with males that have more than one clutch of eggs. Territorial males must find a compromise between the benefits of attracting a female and the costs of parasitic spawning by sneaker males. The possibility that territorial males tolerate the proximity of other territorial males and accept a risk of cuckoldry is discussed. Parasitic spawning in T. melanurus is relatively rare and the gonadosomatic index in both non‐territorial and territorial males is low, indicating that sperm competition is probably not intense.