Multi-year pair-bonding in Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii)

Alan J. Couch, Fiona Dyer, Mark Lintermans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Mating strategies in fishes are known to include polygyny, polyandry and monogamy and provide valuable insights regarding powerful evolutionary forces such as sexual selection. Monogamy is a complex of mating systems that has been relatively neglected. Previous work on mating strategies in fishes has often been based on observation and focused on marine species rather than freshwater fishes. SNPs are increasingly being used as a molecular ecology tool in non-model organisms, and methods of probabilistic genetic analysis of such datasets are becoming available for use in the absence of parental genotypes. This approach can be used to infer mating strategies. The long-term pair bonding seen in mammals, reptiles and birds has not been recorded in freshwater fishes—in every other respect an extremely diverse group. This study shows that multi-year pair bonding occurs in an Australian Percichthyid fish that exhibits paternal care of eggs and larvae. Using SNPs, full sibling pairs of larvae were found over multiple years in a three-year study. Stable isotope signatures of the larvae support the genetic inference that full sibling pairs shared a common mother, the ultimate source of that isotopic signature during oogenesis. Spatial and temporal clustering also suggests that the full sibling larvae are unlikely to be false positive identifications of the probabilistic identification of siblings. For the first time, we show multi-year pair bonding in a wild freshwater fish. This will have important conservation and management implications for the species. This approach could provide insights into many behavioural, ecological and evolutionary questions, particularly if this is not a unique case. Our findings are likely to initiate interest in seeking more examples of monogamy and alternative mating strategies in freshwater fishes, particularly if others improve methods of analysis of SNP data for identification of siblings in the absence of parental genotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10460
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020


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