NIMBioS Study: Male Pipefish Pregnancy, It’s Complicated

NIMBioSIn the upside-down world of the pipefish, sexual selection appears to work in reverse, with flashy females battling for males who bear the pregnancy and carry their young to term in their brood pouch. But new research shows even more factors appear to play a role in determining mating success.

The study’s lead author, Sarah Flanagan, is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), based at UT.

For most species, males compete for access to females – think, a peacock’s tail or a buck’s antlers. But in some species, the sex roles are reversed and males carry the brood, as in the case of pipefish and other members of the Syngnathus family like the seahorse. In these cases, females must compete for access to available mates, and indeed, researchers have found secondary sex traits, such as brightly colored ornamentation, evolving in female pipefish instead of males. Previous studies have also found that large female pipefish, which are able to transfer more eggs to the male’s pouch, are more attractive to the males.

But, in new study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, researchers found that the size of male pipefish matters too.

Read the full story on the NIMBioS website.