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Animal Behavior, 2nd Edition

Chapter 6: Sexual Selection

Pipefish Courtship and Copulation

Video by Anders Berglund

In the first sequence, a deep-snouted pipefish (Syngnathus typhle) female is seen feeding, without expressing any courtship signals. In the second sequence, the same female is seen dancing in the presence of a prospective male mate while displaying black-striped ornamentation along the sides of her body. The display persists throughout the course of copulation (third sequence), which culminates in the release of the female’s eggs into the white brood pouch under the male’s tail. The male then shakes the eggs down into the brood pouch, and he assumes a characteristic S-shaped posture as he fertilizes the eggs. The male then provides parental care for developing young until their emergence from the pouch as fry. In this and other sex-role reversed species, access to males limits female reproductive success. Females in such species often mate with multiple partners, and they commonly compete for access to males both overtly and via sexually selected displays. In some insects and birds, females may even commit infanticide as a means of obtaining reproductive opportunities. While females in such species are typically less choosy than males, females remain discriminating in their choice of male mates.

See Chapter 6 – Sexual Selection.

Further reading – Berglund, A., Sandvik Widemo, M. & Rosenqvist, G. (2005). Sex-role reversal revisited: Choosy females and ornamented, competitive males in a pipefish. Behavioral Ecology 16: 649–655.