Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 169–182 | Cite as

Light environment and mating behavior in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

  • Gabrielle A. ArchardEmail author
  • Innes C. Cuthill
  • Julian C. Partridge
Original Paper


Male guppies, Poecilia reticulata, have color patterns that result from a balance between natural selection for crypsis to avoid predators and sexual selection for bright, complex patterns that attract females. Males use displays to show off these patterns to potential mates, but their conspicuousness also depends on the light environment in which they are viewed. We investigated variation in natural underwater guppy light environments in Trinidad, West Indies, and found that mating behavior is correlated with both the ‘quantity’ (total irradiance) and ‘quality’ (spectral composition) of light: light intensity and the proportion of ultraviolet light were negatively related to display rates. Experimental manipulation of light environment to mimic natural daily changes demonstrated that these relationships are causal and are independent of time of day effects. At lower light levels, when guppies are less detectable by visually hunting predators, females had more opportunity for active mate choice, because males displayed more. However, these light conditions may reduce the ability of females to accurately discriminate between males. Guppy mating behavior is therefore strongly affected by light environment, and this may have important effects on sexual selection.


Guppy Light environment Irradiance Mating behavior Sexual selection 



GAA was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council, UK, Ph.D. Studentship (NERC/S/A/2002/10321). This work was carried out using equipment bought from a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council grant (7/S18903), to ICC, JCP, and Dr. T. Troscianko. Thanks to Mark Priest, Prof. Anne Warren, and Andrew Mead for assistance in the field. The Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago gave permission for the work in the Quare River at the Hollis Reservoir. We thank Prof. John Endler, Prof. Justin Marshall, Dr. Sami Merilaita, and four anonymous referees for their valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. All fieldwork and experiments described in this study complied with the laws of Trinidad and Tobago at the time of the study.

Supplementary material

265_2009_834_MOESM1_ESM.doc (45 kb)
ESM S1 (DOC 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabrielle A. Archard
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Innes C. Cuthill
    • 1
  • Julian C. Partridge
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.School of Forest ResourcesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA

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