Universität Bern


SCIENCE ADVANCES Alternative male morphs solve sperm performance/longevity trade-off in opposite directions M. Taborsky, D. Schütz, O. Goffinet & G.S.van Doorn


Media release, University of Bern


Reciprocal trading of different commodities in Norway rats. M.K. Schweinfurth & M. Taborsky

PDF File
Nature research highlight
Current Biology dispatch

PNAS - Divergence of developmental trajectories is triggered interactively by early social and ecological experience in a cooperative breeder. Fischer, Bohn, Oberhummer, Nyman & B. Taborsky
PDF File
commentary on Fischer et al

PNAS - Predation risk drives social complexity in cooperative breeders. Groenewoud, Frommen, Josi, Tanaka, Jungwirth & Taborsky
PDF File

The evolution of cooperation based on direct fitness benefits. Phil Trans theme issue compiled and edited by Taborsky M., Frommen JG & Riehl C. (2016)
PDF File

NATURE COMMUNICATIONS Kinship reduces alloparental care in cooperative cichlids where helpers pay-to-stay
Zoettl M., Heg D., Chervet N. & Taborsky M. (2013)

PDF File

Social competence: an evolutionary approach
Taborsky, B. & Oliveira, R.F.
PDF File

Larval helpers and age polyethism in ambrosia beetles
Biedermann P.H.W. & Taborsky M.
PDF File

Animal personality due to social niche specialisation
Bergmueller R. & Taborsky M.
PDF File

Environmental Change Enhances Cognitive Abilities in Fish
Kotrschal, A. & Taborsky, B.
PDF File

Extended phenotypes as signals
Franziska C. Schaedelin and Michael Taborsky
PDF File

On the Origin of Species by Natural and Sexual Selection
G. Sander van Doorn, Pim Edelaar, Franz J. Weissing
PDF File

Cambridge University Press
Alternative Reproductive Tactics: An Integrative

Oliveira R., Taborsky M. & Brockmann H.J.
more information

Mechanisms involved in the evolution of alternative reproductive behaviour

Project leader: Post-Docs: Master Students:

In many species individuals may adopt one of several different reproductive behaviours, especially in the male sex. Some males may invest in primary access to females through the defence of resources, for example, whereas others circumvent this investment by either parasitising the investment of other males or by forced copulations. The different tactics can be largely genetically set and maintained through frequency dependent selection, or depend on the phenotypic condition of the male. In the latter case, the fitness of the two tactics may differ with less fit individuals adopting the “best of a bad job”.

callipterus_drawing callipterus_maleovershell

We study evolutionary mechanisms involved in the origin and maintenance of alternative reproductive tactics in a shell brooding Lake Tanganyika cichlid, Lamprologus callipterus. Three different male morphs occur in this species: (1) large nest building males, and two types of parasitic males; (2) medium sized males and (3) dwarf males that are only 2% of the mass of nest males. Nest males collect empty shells in which females lay and care for eggs. Females prefer shells that match their body size and males that occupy the largest shells therefore get the largest, most fecund females. The competition for suitable shells is fierce and the ability to transport shells depends on the size of the male. For small males the only alternative is therefore to parasitize on the investment of larger males.

Questions currently investigated:

  • Genetic and environmental determination of male morphs?
  • Are the alternative tactics stabilised by frequency dependent selection or are they condition dependent?
  • The mechanism of sperm competition and consequences for the evolution of male characteristics.


Taborsky M. Schütz D. Goffinet O. van Doorn GS (2018) Alternative male morphs solve sperm performance / longevity trade-off in alternate directions. Science Advances 4 (5) [ pdf ]

Schütz D. Tschirren L. Pachler G. Grubbauer P. Taborsky M. (2017): Sperm-limited males save ejaculates for future matings when competing with superior rivals. Anim. Behav. 125: 3-12 [pdf ]

von Kuerthy C. Ros AF Taborsky M. (2016). Androgen responses to reproductive competition of fixed or plastic alternative reproductive tactics. Journal of Experimental Biology 219 3544-3553 [pdf]

Engqvist L. and Taborsky M. (2016) The evolution of genetic and conditional alternative reproductive tactics. Proc. R. Soc. B 283: 20152945 pdf

von Kuerthy C. Taborsky M. (2016) Contest versus scramble competition among males pursuing fixed or plastic alternative reproductive tactics. Animal Behaviour 113: 203-212 [pdf]

Hendrickx F. Vanthournout B. Taborsky M. (2015): Selection for costly sexual traits results in a vacant mating niche and male dimorphism. Evolution [pdf]

von Kuerthy C. Tschirren L. & Taborsky M. (2015): Alternative reproductive tactics in snail shell-brooding cichlids diverge in energy reserve allocation. Ecol. Evol. 5: 2060–2069 [pdf]

Mitchell J.S. Wirtz Ocana S. & Taborsky M. (2014): Male and female shell-brooding cichlids prefer different shell characteristics. Anim. Behav. 98:131-137 [pdf]

Wirtz Ocana S. Meidl P. Bonfils D. & Taborsky M. (2014): Y-linked Mendelian inheritance of giant and dwarf male morphs in shell-brooding cichlids. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 281: 20140253 [pdf]

Wirtz-Ocaña S. Schütz D. Pachler G. & Taborsky M. (2013): Paternal inheritance of growth in fish pusuing alternative reproductive tactics. Ecol. Evol. 3:1614–1625 [pdf]

Schuetz D. Heg-Bachar Z. Taborsky M. & Heg D. (2012): Spawning coordination of mates in a shell brooding cichlid. Int. J. Evol. Biol. ID:517849 [pdf]

Häsler M.P. Lindeyer C.M. Otti O. Bonfils D. Heg D. & Taborsky M. (2011): Female mouthbrooders in control of pre- and postmating sexual selection. Behav. Ecol. 22:1033-1041 [pdf]

Taborsky M. & Neat F.C. (2010): Fertilization mode, sperm competition, and cryptic female choice shape primary sexual characters in fish. In: The Evolution of Primary Sexual Characters in Animals (eds. J. Leonard and A. Cordoba-Aguilar). Oxford University Press. 379-408 [link]

Taborsky M. &Brockmann H.J. (2010): Alternative reproductive tactics and life history phenotypes. In: Animal Behaviour: Evolution and Mechanisms (Ed. P. Kappeler). Springer Berlin. 537-586 [pdf, link to the book.]

Schuetz D., Pachler G., Ripmeester E., Goffinet O. & Taborsky M. (2010): Reproductive investment of giants and dwarfs: specialized tactics in a cichlid fish with alternative male morphs. Functional Ecology 24: 131-140 [pdf, 325 KB]

Maan M. & Taborsky M. (2007): Sexual conflict over breeding substrate causes female expulsion and offspring loss in a cichlid fish. Behavioral Ecology (doi: 10.1093/beheco/arm129). [pdf, KB]

Schuetz D., Parker G.A., Taborsky M. and Sato T. (2006): An optimality approach to male and female body sizes in an extremely size-dimorphic cichlid fish. Evolutionary Ecology Research 8, 1393-1408. [pdf, 219 KB / link]

Schuetz, D. & Taborsky M. (2005): An extreme sexual size dimorphism in the shell brooding cichlid, Lamprologus callipterus: the influence of sexual selection and ecological constraints. Animal Behaviour 70, 539-549. [pdf, 262 KB]

Sato T., Hirose M., Taborsky M. & Kimura S. (2004): Size-Dependent Male Alternative Reproductive Tactics in the Shell-Brooding Cichlid Fish Lamprologus callipterus in Lake Tanganyika. Ethology 110, 49-62. [pdf, 232 KB]

Taborsky, M. (2001): The Evolution of Parasitic and Cooperative Reproductive Behaviors in Fishes. Journal of Heredity 92, 100-110. [pdf, 179 KB]

Schuetz D. & Taborsky M. (2000): An Extreme Sexual Size Dimorphism in a Shell-brooding Cichlid, Lamprologus callipterus, and possible evolutionary scenarios. Journal of Fish Biology 57, 1254-1265. [pdf, 138 KB]

Taborsky, M. (1999): Conflict or Cooperation: What determines Optimal Solutions to Competition in Fish Reproduction? In: "Behaviour and Conservation of Littoral Fishes". (eds.: V.C. Almada, R.F. Oliveira, & E.J. Goncalves) ISPA, Lisboa, 301-350. [kein PDF vorhanden]

Taborsky M. (1998): Sperm Competition in Fish: 'Bourgeois' Males and Parasitic Spawning. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 13, 222-227. [pdf, 156 KB]