Male Parasitism in Angler Fish
Biology 342 Fall 2006
Mikey Badr and Will Gester
Ontogeny in Tinbergen's sense deals with the development of the behavior and more specifically what role nature or the environment played in the development of the behavior. Ontogeny seeks to answer the question 'how did this behavior arise in this individual?' Male parasitism in ceratoids presents a special problem for ontogeny. Since no male specimen has been found in the absence of a female host, it is rather difficult to argue for the origins of this behavior.
However some logical conclusions can still be made. Since male ceratoids ubiquitously perform this behavior in the absence of a male role model (father was co-opted onto female), the behavior is likely genetic in origin. Questions that should be asked about the male angler fish include, ‘what hormones play a role in the sexual dimorphism of the anglerfish?’, ‘what genetic sequences and corresponding protein products cause the male to bite the female and graft onto her?’, and ‘what pheromones cause the male to track down the female anglerfish?’. All of these putative ideas rely on being able to obtain a living and unattached male ceratoid.