Parental care in fishes | Vertebrates | Chordata

Parental care in fishes | Vertebrates | Chordata

Parental care is defined as the animal behavior in which the parents looks after their young ones or eggs until they are independent and are able to defend themselves from predators and threats. Parental care is seen in most vertebrates such as fishes, amphibia , mammals etc.

Fishes as a group pays a little parental care to their young ones and eggs. The main goal of most of the fishes is to ensure fertilization but gives little attention to the eggs and young ones. This lack of parental care in fishes leads to production of great number of sperms and eggs. There are however some notable expectations in which which parental care is seen.

Parental care in fish

Nest building

Nest building is seen in certain species of fishes such as male Strickback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) which is a small fresh water fish found in the lakes and ponds of North America. The male fish built a nest with the help dead aquatic plants and sticky secretion from his kidneys. When the making of his nest completes, it makes a small tunnel and allows many females to lay eggs in the nest. After fertilizing the eggs , the male fish guards over the fertilized eggs, till they hatches.

Male Stickleback and a female at the a nest made of aquatic plants which is a type of parental care in fishes
Pic 1: Male Stickleback and a female at the a nest made of aquatic plant

Simmilarly the African lung fish (Protopterus) digs holes at the base of tall swamp grasses where the female lays eggs. It then guards the eggs till they hatches.

The male bowfin (Amina calva) builds a circular nest around aquatic plants and guards the eggs. It also keeps his young ones with him for some time afterwards.

Male Bowfin guarding its nest which is a type of parental care in fishes
Pic 2 : Male Bowfin guarding its nest

Coiling around eggs

The male Pholis guards the eggs by coiling around the eggs . The coiling of the fish around the eggs takes the form of a sphere or ball. The male guards the eggs until they hatches.

Attachment to the body

The male New Guinea fish, Kurtus entangles the mass of egg or egg pouch on a hook like structure on its forehead and guards them unit they hatches.

The male Australian Kurtus incubating eggs on its forehead
Pic 3 : The male Australian Kurtus incubating eggs on its forehead

Integumentary cups

In fishes such as Aspredo and Platystacus, the fertilized eggs are passed into the soft spongy skin of the belly of the female fish. Each egg becomes attached by a stalk into a cup-like depression of integuments and carries the eggs unit they hatches.

Shelter in mouth

There are many species of mouth brooding fishes such as the cat fish Arius and females of Cichlid, Trilapa carries the fertilized eggs in their mouth till they hatches. The very young also takes refuge in their parent’s buccal cavity in times of danger.

Young ones of Trilapa taking shelter in mouth of parents
Pic 4: Young ones of Trilapa taking shelter in mouth of parents

Brood pouches

In fishes like sea horse, Hippocampus and pipe fish Syngnathus, the female transfers the eggs into a brood pouch on the belly of the male, which keeps the eggs until hatching takes place.

A male  Hippocampus carrying brood pouch which is a type of parental care in fishes
Pic 5: A male Hippocampus carrying brood pouch

Mermaid purses

Oviparous sharks such as Scyllium lay fertilized eggs inside protective horny egg capsule called mermaid purse which remains anchored to see weeds by long tendril. The young one hatches out by rupturing the egg purse or capsule.

Mermaid pouch of various fishes
Pic 6: Mermaid pouch of various fishes

Viviparity

A few species of fishes such as Dog fish, Scoliodon, the Surf fish Cyamatogaster aggregatus. Both fertilization and development takes place inside the body of the female.

Fully developed young ones in the body of Cyamatogaster aggregatus ready for hatching

Pic 7: Fully developed young ones in the body of Cyamatogaster aggregatus ready for hatching

The developing embryo gets nourishment from yolk sac placenta. Viviparity provides maximum protection and represents the highest degree of parental care.

Importance of parental care

The importance of parental care are:

  1. It is important for survival of young one.
  2. It improves offspring quality in a way that leads to increased offspring survival and reproduction in the future when parents are no longer associated with offspring.
  3. It protects the young one from predators and bad weather conditions.

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