Document Type


Publication Date



© 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Journal of Experimental Biology. Mouth brooding is an extreme form of parental care in which the brooding parent carries the developing young in their buccal cavity for the duration of development. Brooding fish need to compensate for the brood weight on the anterior portion of their body. For fishes with a compartmentalized swim bladder, gas distribution between the chambers may aid in regulating buoyancy during brooding. To test this hypothesis, we took radiographs of Astatotilapia burtoni to compare the swim bladder morphology of gravid, mouth-brooding and recovering females. Following spawning, females carry developing fish in their buccal cavity for ∼2 weeks, resulting in a larger and rounder anterior swim bladder compartment. Comparatively, the swim bladder of gravid females is long and cylindrical. Using small beads to mimic brood weight and its effects on female buoyancy, swim bladder changes were induced that resembled those observed during brooding. Immediately after releasing their fry, brooding females swim at a positive angle of attack but correct their swimming posture to normal within 5 min, suggesting a rapid change in swim bladder gas distribution. These data provide new insights into how swim bladder morphology and swimming behavior change during mouth brooding, and suggest a compartmentalized swim bladder may be a morphological adaptation for mouth brooding.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Journal of Experimental Biology

First Page


Last Page