In 2017, I posted about alloparental care in cooperative breeding cichlids. In that post, I pointed to an article about such behavior in Perissodus microlepis, a small, rather non-descript cichlid species found in Lake Tanganyika. That particular study didn’t use a ‘direct observation’ method, but rather relied solely on a genetic parenting analysis. Studying cichlids in their natural habitat using observation, rather than observing them inside a controlled environment like an aquarium, allows researchers to partially eliminate effects of confinement on their observation results.
Recently, scientists from Switzerland published a study of another cooperative breeding species, Neolamprologus savoryi at Kasakalawe point at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika. The substrate spawning N. savoryi is a diminuitive, yet territorial species that is mildly aggressive. Unlike the Perissodus microlepis study, the N. savoryi study used the field observation method and then used genetic analysis of the captured specimens to determine genetic relatedness.
The study revealed that a non-parental male helper in the colony provided direct egg care, including cleaning and defending the eggs. For most cichlid species, this is atypical behavior. If you want to learn a bit more about keeping Neolamprologus savoryi, see Pam Chin’s article from several years ago. Perhaps you might witness this behavior yourself if you take on the challenge of keeping and breeding these little jewels.
Josi D, Taborsky M, Frommen JG. “First field evidence for alloparental egg care in cooperatively breeding fish.” Ethology. 2019;00:1–6. https://doi.org/10.1111/eth.12838