A rare form of alternative reproductive behaviour without simultaneous parasitic spawning was observed in Ophthalmotilapia ventralis, a lekking mouth-brooding cichlid from Lake Tanganyika. Floater males attempted to sneak opportunistically into the territory to actively court the female, while the owner (bourgeois male) defended the territory against other potential intruders. Floater males had more body fat than territory owners and generally higher condition factors. In field experiments, the response of bourgeois males and courted females was tested towards floaters and egg predators (a catfish Synodontis multipunctatus) present in the territories. Territory owners responded aggressively particularly to floaters, and female responsiveness to bourgeois male courtship tended to decline when floaters were present. The potential influence of reproductive parasitism on sexual selection in mouth-brooding cichlids is discussed.
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