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For pipefish, Mr. Mom gets help
By Susan Milius
If dad’s a dud, mom may make it up to the
kids with an extra shot of protein.
Female broad-nosed pipefish enhance
their eggs with more protein — a boost of
some 11 percent — when paired with an
undersized mate rather than a large one,
says ecologist Gry Sagebakken of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
It’s the male pipefish that carries
around embryos inside his body pouch
after fertilization. He supplies some protein to the developing embryos, and previous research shows that larger males
do tend to have larger offspring. So extra
protein from mom may partly compensate for an undersized dad, the researchers suggest in the March 22 Proceedings
of the Royal Society B.
In efforts to understand how sexual
interactions drive evolution, this limited
egg analysis illustrates how complicated
sexual selection is, comments Elisabeth
Bolund of the Max Planck Institute for
Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany.
Biologists have paid a lot of attention to
how animals choose a partner, but “you
need to look at all the stages in the pro-
cess,” she says.
In Syngnathus typhle, the broad-nosed
pipefish, males brood young in pouches.
burg, and colleagues provided each of 29
females with two chances to mate, once
with a puny male and once with a hunk.
After a female had transferred at least
20 eggs, researchers caught the male
and coaxed the eggs out of his pouch for
analysis. Eggs deposited in small males’
pouches were not bigger or richer in fat
but did have extra protein compared with
eggs from the large males’ pouches.
That makes sense for pipefish,
researchers say, since a competitive
female can easily get stuck with a less-than-hefty male. Once a female makes
eggs, she can’t reabsorb them. So at times
she may mate with a male even if he’s a
shrimp of a fish.
Carnation bloom boom
the carnation has a wild side. european carnations and pinks,
members of the Dianthus group, form new species surprisingly
fast. the quick pace suggests that europe “has been under
estimated as a cradle of recent and rapid speciation,” a team
reports online January 27 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
of the 300 or so species, more than 100 are found in europe
(five shown). luis valente of the royal botanical Garden in
madrid and colleagues analyzed genes from plants collected all
over the world. in europe, the scientists found, new Dianthus
species have appeared at an overall rate of 2. 2 to 7. 6 species
per million years —comparable to the record rates for plants
and land vertebrates. the rate jumped dramatically between
2 million and 1. 3 million years ago. the increase coincided with
climate changes: Wetter winters and drier summers could have
boosted speciation rate. so too could have the flowers’ ten
dency to bloom in summer, not spring; competition for scarce
summer pollinators, combined with other factors, may have led
the flowers to change more often. — Laura Sanders
from top: iris duraNovic; pablo varGas