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Letters to Nature
Nature 323, 58 - 59 (04 September 1986); doi:10.1038/323058a0

A brood parasitic catfish of mouthbrooding cichlid fishes in Lake Tanganyika

Tetsu Sato*

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa-oiwakecho, Sakyoku, Kyoto 606, Japan
*Address for correspondence: c/o Professor H. Okumura, Department of Biology, Japan Women's University, 2-8-1 Mejirodai, Bunkyoku, Tokyo 112, Japan.

Brood parasitism, where a brood of the parasitic species is fostered by the parents of another species, is well known among birds1. In most cases, such offspring show a complete reliance upon their host parents for food, protection and warmth until their independence. In other vertebrate groups, however, such total dependence upon a host species is unknown. I report here the first example of true brood parasitic behaviour discovered among fishes. In Lake Tanganyika, an endemic mochokid catfish, Synodontis multipunctatus Boulenger, is a brood parasite of mouthbrooding fishes of the family Cichlidae. The eggs of the catfish are incubated in the mouths of any of several host species together with the host's eggs, but hatch earlier. Following absorption of their yolk sacs, the catfish fry feed upon the fry of the host while still in its mouth. Thus the early stages of development of this catfish not only depend upon their hosts for food and protection, but exploit almost their entire parental investment.

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