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Hypothesizing novel mating behaviours in the squaretail grouper based on direct behavioural observations

Karkarey, R and Zambre, A and Isvaran, K and Arthur, R (2019) Hypothesizing novel mating behaviours in the squaretail grouper based on direct behavioural observations. In: Rethinking Ecology, 4 . pp. 103-114.

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Official URL: https://dx.doi.org/10.3897/rethinkingecology.4.333...


Historically unfished, high-density spawning aggregations are vanishingly uncommon. Behavioural observations from such aggregations are rare, and may be sometimes novel and unexpected. Given the weight of evidence required to document spawning aggregations, how can we best report rare and unusual behavioural variations in spawning populations? Based on two years of in-water observations of a high-density spawning aggregation of the squaretail grouper in the Lakshadweep Archipelago, we described a previously unreported male alternative reproductive tactic (ART) and an inverse size assortment with large males courting several small females that shoaled mid-water (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12898-017-0120-5). In critiquing our manuscript, it has been suggested that our observations, methodologies and interpretation are inadequate, flawed, and do not fit within currently accepted theory (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12898-018-0206-8). While offering a detailed counter of the main methodological and theoretical criticisms we question how best to document and interpret novel behaviours in poorly known systems. Reporting novelty itself can hardly be the basis of criticism. Our report relied on direct in-water observations, conducted at peak densities over two spawning years. The critique ignores this, choosing instead to focus on a supplementary video which was not the basis of our conclusions. Like other researchers working on this species, we did not directly observe mating, but report courtship as a well-established proxy used across mating systems studies. Apart from these methodological concerns, the authors suggest that there is no theoretical support for our observations. However, sexual selection theory provides well-established frameworks showing that, at very high mating densities, a variety of tactics can emerge, that often vary considerably between populations and locations. In our original paper, we use this broader theory of sexual selection together with detailed behavioural data to propose plausible evolutionary explanations that bear testing in these novel, high-density systems. We agree with the authors that novel observations should be scrutinised carefully as they can challenge our current understanding of the range of behaviours populations display and serve as a springboard for theoretical advancement. Given their rarity, these observations should be evaluated against the rigour of their documentation and the transparency of their reporting. In this context, we hope our carefully documented observations serve as a useful addition to the fascinating and complex natural history of species like the squaretail grouper. Copyright Rucha Karkarey et al.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Rethinking Ecology
Publisher: Pensoft Publishers
Additional Information: Copy right for this article belongs to Pensoft Publishers
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2020 06:57
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2020 06:57
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/65677

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