Wednesday September 14, 2022


Leaving the comfort and safety of home to explore the world is a difficult decision. However, in a tiny coral reef fish called a neon goby, dads help their offspring take the plunge by pushing them out the door when the time is just right.

A new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences from The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute and collaborators, provides the first documented case of a coral reef fish directly regulating when its offspring hatch. Male neon gobies hatch their embryos by removing eggs from the nest with their mouth, transporting the newly-hatched larvae to the opening of the sponge where neon gobies live—and then spitting them out of the sponge entrance.

Hatching is the most vulnerable time in the life of coral reef fishes, which makes choosing when to hatch a crucial decision.

“We often think that eggs are like tiny kitchen timers: they develop for a set period of time, then—ding!—they hatch,” said John Majoris, a research scientist at UT Austin and corresponding author on the study. “But, in many species, embryos have to actively decide when to hatch.”

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