The plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) is a nocturnally-active marine fish distributed along the Pacific coast of North America, from Alaska to Mexico. In the winter plainfin midshipman are found in deep water but will migrate up to the shallow intertidal zone in the breeding season (spring and summer). Plainfin midshipman prefer to nest under rocks in sheltered, rocky shores. We sample their nests at low tide throughout the breeding season where we can easily collect tissues, embryos and nest characteristics from many fish across our different beaches and populations. The plainfin midshipman is a fascinating fish species for many reasons but one of the most interesting features of this species is that there are two distinct male reproductive tactics, called guarder “type I” and sneaker “type II” males. The guarding type I males aggressively compete for nest sites, which are excavated areas under rocks. The largest guarding males win the largest rock/nest sites and gain the most eggs. In contrast, sneaker type II males do not guard nests or court females, but instead, steal fertilizations from guarding males by either sneaking deep into the nest when a female is present, or by fanning sperm into the nest from the periphery.
We have been using plainfin midshipman to study sperm competition, impacts of contaminants on gonads, parental care, tactic evolution, life history, diet and cannibalism.
Here are a few representative ABEL papers on this species:
Cogliati, KM, Neff, BD, and Balshine, S, 2013. "High degree of paternity loss in a species with alternative reproductive tactics". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67(3), 399-408
Sopinka, NM, Fitzpatrick, JL, Taves, JE, Ikonomou, MG, Marsh-Rollo, SE, and Balshine, S, 2012. "Does proximity to aquatic pollution affect reproductive traits in a wild-caught intertidal fish?". Journal of Fish Biology, 80(6), 2374-2383
Fitzpatrick, JL, Craig, PM, Bucking, C, Balshine, S, Wood, CM, and McClelland, GB, 2009. "Sperm performance under hypoxic conditions in the intertidal fish Porichthys notatus". Canadian Journal of Zoology-Revue Canadienne De Zoologie, 87(5), 464-469
Suk, HY, Neff, BD, Fitzpatrick, JL, and Balshine, S, 2009. "Isolation and characterization of polymorphic microsatellite loci in plainfin midshipman fish". Hereditas, 146(5), 204-207