Royal Society Publishing

Courtship rate signals fertility in an externally fertilizing fish

Laura K. Weir, James W. A. Grant


Sperm limitation is widespread across many animal species. Several mechanisms of sperm allocation have been proposed, including optimal allocation according to clutch size and equal allocation across females. However, considerably less effort has been directed at investigating the behavioural signals associated with sperm limitation in males, which may include mating rate and the intensity of courtship. We investigated whether multiple successive spawnings affect individual male fertilization success, mating rates and courtship rates in Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes). Across an average of 17 spawning events per male, fertilization success decreased from 83.7 per cent for the first spawning to 40 per cent for the last spawning while courtship rate decreased from 3.4 to 1.5 min−1. Females appeared to respond to male sperm depletion by reducing clutch size. Our results suggest that male Japanese medaka are sperm-limited, and that courtship rate may be an honest indication of fertilization ability.


    • Received February 11, 2010.
    • Accepted March 30, 2010.
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