Speciation in Ancient Lakes


, Volume 682, Issue 1, pp 121-130

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Concordant female mate preferences in the cichlid fish Tropheus moorii

  • Bernd SteinwenderAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Karl-Franzens-University Graz
  • , Stephan KoblmüllerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Karl-Franzens-University Graz
  • , Kristina M. SefcAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Karl-Franzens-University Graz Email author 


Discriminating female mate preferences enhance the variance in reproductive success among males of a population and create a potential for sexual selection, which can account for trait evolution and diversification. Fish color patterns are among the prime targets of mate choice-driven sexual selection. Populations of the cichlid Tropheus from Lake Tanganyika display remarkable geographic color pattern variation, but the role of female choice in their rapid and rich phenotypic diversification is unclear. Males and females establish a pair bond prior to spawning monogamously, but as brood care is strictly maternal, female investment in reproduction is high and the operational sex ratio is male-biased. Therefore, variance in male reproductive success can accrue if individual males succeed repeatedly in securing a mate. To test this prediction in the red colored Tropheus moorii “Chimba”, four pairs of males were presented to a series of females and female mate preferences were inferred from pairwise interactions. There was a significant difference in mating success between the males of each pair (P < 0.001 over all trials), as—with one exception—females shared preferences for the same males. Male courtship activity was strongly correlated with female choice. Our experiment suggests that female choice contributes to the variance in male reproductive success in the tested population.


Mate choice Sexual selection Cichlidae Courtship Lake Tanganyika