The evolutionary ecology of nest construction: Insight from recent fish studies

Iain Barber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Citations (SciVal)


Nests are built by a wide variety of animals as functional receptacles for developing eggs and offspring, and they play a critical role in the reproductive biology of many species. Traditionally, research on the ecology and evolution of nest building and construction behaviour has focused primarily on birds, and avian studies have dominated the literature. However, as researchers working on non-bird models have realised the importance of nest construction in evolutionary ecology, the number of studies published on the nesting behaviour of non-bird taxa has increased. An analysis of the literature reveals that fish have become major models for studying many aspects of nest building behaviour, but whereas studies of fish nest building behaviour frequently cite classical and contemporary bird studies, the findings of recent fish nesting research appears to be slower to be recognised by bird biologists. Further analysis reveals that this citation bias may arise because of the tendency of nest building studies to be published in taxon-specific, often local journals, and this may be especially the case for bird-focused studies. In this review, I summarise the recent literature on fish nesting behaviour, focusing on aspects that should be of mutual interest to fish and bird biologists. I hope that the review may be used by bird biologists to identify complementary and insightful nest-building research in fish, and that researchers with interests in the nest-building behaviour of animals across the taxonomic spectrum might use the review to focus on questions of mutual and general importance and interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
JournalAvian Biology Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • Birds
  • Extended phenotype
  • Fish
  • Gasterosteus
  • Goby
  • Nest building behaviour
  • Nest construction
  • Sexual selection
  • Spiggin
  • Stickleback


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