- University of Western Ontario
- University of Oklahoma
- Grand Valley State University
Parental care can include two general types of behavior: (1) aggressive behavior, which is used to defend offspring from predators; and (2) nurturing behavior, which is used to provide offspring with environmental conditions or resources necessary for survival. Many studies have implicated androgens in promoting aggressive behavior and prolactin in promoting nurturing behavior. We experimentally manipulated these hormones to investigate their effects on parental care behavior in bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus). Parental males, which provide sole care to the developing eggs and larvae, received an implant with an androgen (11-ketotestosterone [11-KT]), an androgen antagonist (flutamide), prolactin, a prolactin-release inhibitor (bromocriptine), or castor oil (placebo). We found that 11-KT implants led to a significant increase in the frequency of aggressive behavior directed towards a simulated brood predator, and were associated with a nearly significant decrease in the frequency of nurturing behavior directed towards the developing eggs. In contrast, prolactin implants were associated with a significant increase in the frequency of nurturing behavior, but also reduced the frequency of aggressive behavior directed towards the simulated brood predator. These results suggest a hormone-mediated mechanistic trade-off between nurturing and aggressive behavior, whereby parental males are unable to be both highly nurturing and highly aggressive.