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Discus fish parent young like mammalian mothers
Date:10/29/2010

left the cone en masse and began feeding on their parents' mucus, feeding for up to 10min by biting at the parent's side until the parent expertly 'flicked' the shoal over to its partner to continue feeding. The parents diligently fed their young intensely for 2 weeks. However, 3 weeks after hatching the parents' behaviour began to change as they started swimming away from their young for brief periods. At the same time the fry began biting their parents less and investigating other food sources. By the fourth week the parents were actively swimming away from their brood for the majority of the time and the fry barely bit them at all.

'There are a lot of parallels between the discus fish's parental care and the parental care that we see in mammals and birds,' says Buckley. Initially the parents invest all of their effort in raising their current batch of young, but wean the offspring when their investment in the current brood might begin affecting later broods. Buckley suspects that he sees signs of the conflict often seen between mammals and their young where parents want to wean their offspring and the offspring continue pursuing them in the fish's chasing behaviour during the third week after hatching.

Monitoring the composition of the parents' mucus before they spawned and through to the end of their parental responsibilities, Buckley found a huge increase in the mucus's antibody and protein levels when the parents laid their eggs, similar to the changes seen in mammalian milk around the time of birth. The protein and antibody levels remained high until the third week and returned to pre-spawning levels during the fourth week after hatching. Buckley suspects that the sudden increase in protein levels at spawning is hormonally regulated, much like the changes in mammalian milk, and is keen to find out more about the hormones that regulate the fish's mucus supply as they care for their young.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
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Source:Eurekalert

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