(1) Predation selects for antipredator competence in prey. For fishes with parental care, brood predators exert selection on the morphological phenotype of offspring, and also exert strong selection pressure to promote parental care behavior of adults. (2) This review summarizes field and lab studies on the ontogeny of antipredator competence in convict cichlids, a freshwater fish with extended biparental care of their free-swimming young. (3) Here, data show that differences in swimming performance between small and large young are exploited by parents when they adopt (smaller) young. Velocity and acceleration of startle responses improves nonlinearly with body size, increasing rapidly at a point when the skeleton rapidly ossifies from cartilage to bone, at the size at which discrimination by adopting parents shifts, and the timing of change in the rate of change in area protected by parents. Convict cichlids in a Nicaraguan lake population showed a similar correlation among these traits, but these traits are delayed relative to Costa Rican fish. (4) Population divergence is likely explained by relatively more intense brood predation in the lake, which selects for different optima of larval antipredator competence and parental brood defense.
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