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Sensory exploitation and plasticity in female mate choice in the swordtail characin
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5791-336X
2013 (English)In: Animal Behaviour, ISSN 0003-3472, E-ISSN 1095-8282, Vol. 85, no 5, 891-898 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Despite extensive research in the field of sexual selection, the evolutionary origin and maintenance of preferences for sexual ornaments are still debated. Recent studies have pointed out that plasticity in mate choice might be more common than previously thought, but little is still known about the factors that affect such plasticity. The swordtail characin, Corynopoma riisei, is a tropical fish species in which males use a food-mimicking ornament to attract females. We tested whether ecological factors, more specifically prior foraging experience, can affect female preference for male ornaments. For this, we habituated females on a diet consisting of either red-coloured food or standard-coloured green food items and then we tested whether female preferences for artificially red-coloured male ornaments matched their previous foraging experience. We found a strong effect of food treatment: females trained on red food showed a stronger response to males with red-coloured ornaments than females trained on green food. Our results show that ecological variation can generate divergence of female preferences for male ornaments and that the response in preference to environmental change can be rapid if the bias is partly learnt.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 85, no 5, 891-898 p.
Keyword [en]
Corynopoma riisei, diet, mate choice, sensory exploitation, sexual selection, swordtail characin
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-203305DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.02.001ISI: 000319332000004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-203305DiVA: diva2:636108
Available from: 2013-07-08 Created: 2013-07-08 Last updated: 2014-09-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Fishing for Females: Sensory Exploitation in the Swordtail Characin
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fishing for Females: Sensory Exploitation in the Swordtail Characin
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Mate choice plays an important role in sexual selection and speciation. The evolution of mate choice is intriguing in cases where choosy individuals gain little except for genetic material from the mate and where the trait used as a criterion for the choice is costly to its bearer. The sensory exploitation hypothesis is an interesting idea that applies to such cases because it suggests that sexual preferences may arise as side-effects of preferences that are under selection in other contexts. The role of mate choice in speciation is strong but is debated because the reasons for population divergence in mate preferences and sexual traits are sometimes hard to explain. Also in this context sensory exploitation offers a potential explanation in that a link between natural and sexual selection may result in divergence in sexual selection whenever populations differ in natural selection.

In this thesis, I test several aspects of this hypothesis in a species of fish, the swordtail characin (Corynopoma riisei). In this species males display a flag-like ornament that grows from the operculum. Because females respond to this ornament by biting at it, it has been proposed to act as a food-mimic. By manipulating female food type and quantity, and testing the resulting female preference for the male ornament, I find support for the theory that the preference has evolved through sensory exploitation and that females indeed appear to relate the ornament to a food item. Furthermore, I show that sensory exploitation can lead to morphological divergence among natural populations in this species. Apart from the flag-ornament, other courtship signals are also investigated. The results show that the relative importance of different signals may vary depending on receiver motivation. This suggests that various aspects of both male courtship signals and the conditions during which they are being signalled should be considered to gain a full understanding of mate choice and its role in sexual selection and speciation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. 43 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1076
Sexual selection, Mate choice, Courtship, Sensory bias, Plasticity, Corynopoma riisei, Mulitiple signalling
National Category
Evolutionary Biology Zoology
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Animal Ecology
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-207334 (URN)978-91-554-8758-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-10-31, Ekmansalen, Norbyvägen 14, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Available from: 2013-10-09 Created: 2013-09-12 Last updated: 2014-01-23

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