Territory quality affects female preference in a Lake Victoria cichlid fish

Peter D. Dijkstra, Els M. Van Der Zee, Ton G.G. Groothuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Mate preferences on male colour have been implicated in generating and maintaining species diversity among haplochromine cichlid fish. Their lek-like mating system suggests that not only male colour but also territory quality is instrumental in mate choice. We assessed the relative importance of territory quality and male colour in mate choice by testing whether territory quality can override the female preference for males of her own colour in the Lake Victoria cichlid genus Pundamilia. First, we showed in experimental groups that the dominant male preferentially monopolised a large tube relative to a small tube. The situation mimics quality difference in rocky crevices that serves as a focal point for male courtship display. Second, in mate-choice tests, Pundamilia nyererei females were allowed to choose between closely related P. nyererei and P. pundamilia males; these species differ strikingly in male nuptial coloration, but little else. We gave either both males the same small tube or one of them a large tube. The preference of P. nyererei females for P. nyererei males in the control situation (where both males had a small tube) was significantly diminished in favour of P. pundamilia males when the latter had the large tube. The results provide experimental evidence that differences in territory quality can override the female preference for males of her own colour. This finding is critical for a recent hypothesis proposing that male competition for mating territories can facilitate the process of sympatric speciation by sexual selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-755
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume62
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2008

Keywords

  • Haplochromine cichlid
  • Male-male competition
  • Mate choice
  • Sexual selection

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