Egg-spot pattern and body size asymmetries influence male aggression in haplochromine cichlid fishes

Theis, Anya and Bosia, Tania and Roth, Tobias and Salzburger, Walter and Egger, Bernd. (2015) Egg-spot pattern and body size asymmetries influence male aggression in haplochromine cichlid fishes. Behavioral ecology, 26 (6). pp. 1512-1519.

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Assessing an opponent’s strength is an important component of attack strategies in territorial combats between males. Body size is often considered to directly influence an individual’s strength, but other honest visual signals may also affect the assessment of opponents. Among such visual signals are the so-called egg-spots, a conspicuous ovoid marking on the anal fin of male haplochromine cichlid fishes, made up of carotenoid-containing and other pigment cells. It has long been assumed that egg-spots are mainly relevant in courtship and spawning behavior, and previous work has focused primarily on their function in intersexual selection. Recently, however, both body size and egg-spots have been suggested to play a role in male–male interactions. To test whether egg-spots function in female choice or whether egg-spots and/or body size function as a predictor of strength and the subsequent attack strategy in male–male interactions, we performed a series of behavioral experiments in the haplochromine cichlid Astatotilapia calliptera. The trials revealed a limited involvement of egg-spots in female choice, yet a much stronger influence in male interactions. Territorial males combined information from the strength assessment based on body size and egg-spots to adopt their attack strategies. They launched more attacks against the larger intruder with many egg-spots compared with the smaller intruder without or with fewer egg-spots. Our study provides evidence that egg-spots serve as honest visual signal and that the level of asymmetries in egg-spot pattern and body size determines the relative impact of each trait in strength assessment.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Behavioural Ecology (Amrhein)
05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Evolutionary Biology (Ebert)
UniBasel Contributors:Roth, Tobias and Theis, Anya and Salzburger, Walter and Egger, Bernd
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:13 Sep 2016 07:00
Deposited On:13 Sep 2016 07:00

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