Androgens are known to mediate aggressive and defensive behaviour in many vertebrate species. However, high concentrations of androgens might also conflict with the expression of nurturing behaviours and therefore a trade‐off can exist between aggressive and nurturing behaviours during parental care. We explored the role of testosterone in paternal care in bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus), where males provide both sole defence of the young from predators and sole nurturing behaviour such as fanning of the eggs. At the onset of parental care, we manipulated testosterone levels in males using testosterone propionate implants. We then observed the frequency of nurturing and aggressive behaviours displayed by the males over 6 d of parental care. Testosterone‐implanted fish were more aggressive when presented with a brood predator, performing more bites, opercular flares and lateral displays than control males. Testosterone‐implanted males, however, were not less nurturing than control fish, performing similar levels of fanning and nest‐cleaning behaviours. Thus, our results support a positive relationship between testosterone and paternal aggression but no testosterone‐mediated trade‐off between paternal nurturing and aggression.
Testosterone manipulations were performed. Daily snorkeling surveys located nests with spawning parental male and female bluegill. Males were captured on their nests using dip nets. Fish were anethestized using clove oil - blood samples were taken, fish were weighed and implants were performed.