Masquerading in murky waters

Jul 19, 2007

Finding a decent, honest mate is challenging enough without the added problem of reduced visibility caused by human-induced changes to the aquatic environment.

Yet this is precisely the sort of dilemma female stickleback fish are facing in the Baltic Sea, according to a recent study published in the August issue of the American Naturalist by Dr. Bob Wong, an Australian researcher from Monash University, and his Scandinavian colleagues, Dr. Ulrika Candolin from the University of Uppsala and Dr. Kai Linstrom from the Åbo Akademi in Finland.

An increase in nutrient input in the Baltic is compromising water clarity by promoting algal blooms. Dr. Wong and his colleagues were interested in finding out whether this, in turn, might lead to a break down in the honesty of sexual displays used by male sticklebacks to attract females. They did so by examining the courtship effort of good and poor condition males in the absence and presence of a rival male in both clear sea water and water rendered turbid by algae.

“Under reduced visibility caused by the presence of algae, poor quality males are able to lie about their physical condition to unsuspecting females by displaying at a higher rate without the risk of attracting the wrath of rival males,” says Dr. Wong. “Since poor condition males are also more likely to eat the eggs that they’re suppose to be tending, this is bad news for females who rely on the honesty of male sexual displays to select mates with superior parental qualities.”

Citation: Bob B. M. Wong, Ulrika Candolin, and Kai Lindström, "Environmental deterioration compromises socially enforced signals of male quality in three-spined sticklebacks" The American Naturalist (2007), volume 170:184–189 DOI: 10.1086/519398

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: New study offers novel insights into pathogen behavior

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Small male fish use high aggression strategy

Aug 31, 2012

(Phys.org)—In the deserts of central Australia lives a tough little fish known as the desert goby, and a new study is shedding light on the aggressive mating behaviour of smaller nest-holding males.

Recommended for you

Protections blocked, but sage grouse work goes on

14 hours ago

(AP)—U.S. wildlife officials will decide next year whether a wide-ranging Western bird species needs protections even though Congress has blocked such protections from taking effect, Interior Secretary ...

Contrasting views of kin selection assessed

16 hours ago

In an article to be published in the January issue of BioScience, two philosophers tackle one of the most divisive arguments in modern biology: the value of the theory of "kin selection."

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.