The Parent Trap

Recreational fishing could inadvertently target male fish that take the best care of their young, researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study authors compared two types of largemouth bass, a popular fishing target. One line of “highly vulnerable” bass was more prone to attacking lures and getting caught, while the other “less vulnerable” line was more likely to avoid capture.

In experimental ponds, females preferred to mate with males from the more vulnerable line, the scientists found. Those males also proved to be better parents: They spent more time guarding and taking care of eggs, and they were more aggressive toward predators that might threaten their nests. The vulnerable male bass fathered 740 young fish, while the less vulnerable males fathered only 449.

The results suggest that recreational fishing may lead to “selective removal of those individuals with the greatest potential for high reproductive success,” the team writes. And since fishers often target species that care for their young, “management implications of this study extend well beyond the largemouth bass.” Roberta Kwok | 6 December 2012

Source: Sutter, D.A.H. et al. 2012. Recreational fishing selectively captures individuals with the highest fitness potential. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doi: 10.1073/pnas.1212536109.

Image © Dewitt |