Parents of baby reef fish decide when their embryos will hatch

Male neon guppy regulates hatching of embryos inside the hatchery. To induce hatching, the male picks up the embryos from the clutch using his mouth, swims to the entrance to the shelter and spits out free-swimming larvae into the water column. Credit: John Majors

Leaving the comfortable and safe home to explore the world is a tough decision. However, in a small reef fish called the neon guppy, parents help their offspring indulge by pushing them out when the time is right.

A new paper has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences From the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute and collaborators, presents the first documented case of reef fish that directly regulates their offspring. hatching. Male gobies hatch them neon embryos By removing the eggs from the nest with their mouth, and transferring the newly hatched larvae to the sponge opening where the neon birds live – then spitting them out of the sponge’s entrance.

Hatching is the most vulnerable time in the lives of reef fish, making the choice of hatching time a critical decision.

“We often think of eggs as little kitchen timers: they develop for a set amount of time, and then hatch,” said John Majoris, a research scientist at the University of Austin and corresponding author on the study. “But in many species, embryos have to actively decide when to hatch.”






Male neon guppy regulates hatching of embryos inside the hatchery. To induce hatching, the male picks up the embryos from the clutch using his mouth, swims to the entrance to the shelter and spits out free-swimming larvae into the water column. attributed to him: John Majors

In the lab, Majoris and colleagues found that neon embryos that grow without their parents hatch less synchronously, are developmentally retarded, and precede embryos cared for by their parents by up to 50%.

Somehow excited parents seem to know the best time to hatch their embryos: All of the male fathers in the study hatched their offspring at sunrise on the seventh day of embryonic development. And embryos that receive parental care They waited for their parents to choose the right time for them to hatch.

“The Gobi embryos are ready and waiting,” Majoris said. “When parents are around, they wait patiently for their parents to call that it’s time to hatch.”

Offspring hatched by their parents are larger and more developed than those hatched alone, which may give them a fin when it comes to catching food, escaping from predators, and navigating the open ocean.

While many fish parents take care of their eggs by aerating, guarding, and cleaning the nest, this is the first time scientists have discovered a reef fish that tells its offspring when to hatch. But parental hatching is likely to be more common than previously understood. Crypt-bottom reef fish – a small group of fickle bottom dwellers – often lay their eggs deep in reef crevices, where it is difficult for embryos to judge hatching conditions. In this case, parents can help by evaluating the external environment and hatching their eggs in a timely manner.

Parents of baby reef fish decide when their embryos will hatch

neon goby fish embryos Credit: John Majors

“This is a remarkably complex parental behavior for a young fish,” Majoris said. “It shows we still have a lot to learn about life in our oceans.”

This research highlights the surprising intricacies of fish farming behavior and provides evidence that, just like humans, fish Parents can make adaptive decisions based on local conditions that affect the survival, resilience, and success of their offspring.


It was found that the embryos of parasitic birds exercise in the egg to strengthen it


more information:
paternal care regulates the timing, synchronization and success of hatching in reef fish, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1098 / rspb.2022.1466. rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or… .1098 / rspb.2022.1466

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