Why these fish moms cannibalize their babies
Some African cichlid fish raise their young in their mouths—and snack on them. Now, scientists may have figured out the reason.
Raising babies can be exhausting—so much so that some mouthbrooding mothers snack on their young, according to a new study.
A central African cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni—commonly called Burton’s mouthbrooder—sometimes consumes more than three-quarters of their own eggs and baby fish.
“It is a surprise,” says Peter Dijkstra, a biologist at Central Michigan University and senior author of a study published today in Biology Letters. “It really is a lot.”
Mouthbrooding is common among fish, particularly cichlids, colorful freshwater species that are popular as aquarium pets. After their eggs are fertilized, A. burtoni moms will shelter them in their mouths for roughly two weeks to protect them from predators.