Experimental evidence for density-dependent reproductive output in a coral reef fish

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We tested for density-dependent reproduction in a small coral reef fish using field manipulations of density and observational data. Males of the study species, the bridled goby (Coryphopterus glaucofraenum Gill), defend benthic nest sites, within which they spawn with females, and females can spawn repeatedly over an extended breeding season. In small areas, usually only a single male nested at any one time regardless of how many males were present, so the probability of nesting was inversely proportional to density. Nesting males were almost always the largest in the vicinity, suggesting that, for males whose home ranges overlap, social interactions dictate opportunities to nest. Both the per capita rate at which clutches were laid and the number of eggs produced per clutch declined with increasing density, so the per capita rate of egg production was also density dependent. All three measures of fecundity were better predicted by numerical density (numbers per unit area) than biomass (mass of fish per unit area), and were well described as an inverse function of the number of gobies in the vicinity. A simple hypothesis consistent with these results is that a constant number of females spawn, regardless of density. Alternately, the effect of crowding may depend primarily on the number of interacting individuals and affect all females relatively equally. This density dependence could thus contribute to population regulation at the spatial scale over which populations become reproductively closed. © 2010 The Society of Population Ecology and Springer.

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Population Ecology