Behavioral dominance between female color morphs of a Lake Victoria cichlid fish

Peter D. Dijkstra, Sander Van Dijk, Ton G.G. Groothuis, Michele E.R. Pierotti, Ole Seehausen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Species that exhibit genetic color polymorphism are suitable for studying the evolutionary forces that maintain heritable phenotypic variation in nature. Male color morphs often differ in behavioral dominance, affecting the evolution of color polymorphisms. However, behavioral dominance among female color morphs has received far less attention. We studied a polymorphic population of the cichlid fish Neochromis omnicaeruleus from Lake Victoria, in which 3 distinct female color morphs coexist, black-and-white blotched (WB), orange blotched (OB), and plain (P) color morphs. First, we investigated dominance relationships among female morphs using triadic and dyadic encounters in the laboratory. In triadic encounters, both WB and OB females dominated plain, whereas WB females dominated OB females. Dominance of WB over OB was confirmed using dyadic encounters. In a second experiment, blotched (WB or OB) and plain full-sib sisters were bred by crossing a blotched and a plain parent. In dyadic encounters, WB female morphs dominated their plain sisters, suggesting that dominance of WB females is a pleiotropic effect of color or that genes coding for color and those influencing behavioral dominance are genetically linked, explaining the association between color and behavioral dominance despite gene flow. We conclude that behavioral dominance asymmetries exist among female color morphs of the fish N. omnicaeruleus, and discuss possible mechanisms that may account for the tight association between color and behavioral dominance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-600
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


  • Aggression
  • Color polymorphism
  • Dominance relationships
  • Female-female competition
  • Haplochromine cichlid
  • Lake Victoria
  • Sexual selection


Dive into the research topics of 'Behavioral dominance between female color morphs of a Lake Victoria cichlid fish'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this