Congenital predispositions and early social experience determine the courtship patterns of males of the Amarillo fish
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- De Gasperin, O. & Macías Garcia, C. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2014) 68: 639. doi:10.1007/s00265-013-1678-3
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Mounting evidence indicates that learning shapes fish foraging and social behavior, which suggests that it may also underlie the frequently reported geographic variation in courtship. In this study, we analyzed how early social experience influences courtship patterns in males of the Amarillo fish (Girardinichthys multiradiatus). In a first experiment, we quantified the courtship of males from two allopatric populations grown in isolation and estimated the heritability of a key attribute of their courtship patterns. Then, we raised males from two allopatric populations with either sympatric or allopatric females and at two different densities, and registered their adult courtship patterns towards females from a third population. We found that the courtship pattern of males has a significant heritable component, yet in the second experiment, it was influenced by what type of females males were raised with, by their social rank (dominant/subordinate/singleton), and by the behavior of the female that they were courting. We conclude that courtship behavior in this fish has a congenital predisposition and is affected during development by different aspects of early experience and seemingly remains flexible throughout life; a complex ontogenetic trajectory that under natural conditions may have led to the locally stable dialect types observed in the courtship patterns of males from allopatric populations.