Journal of Ethology

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 353–362 | Cite as

Visual preference of males for conspecific mates in mutually ornamented fish: possible support for the species recognition hypothesis

  • Keisuke AtsumiEmail author
  • Osamu Kishida
  • Itsuro Koizumi


Because sexual selection typically acts on males, the evolution of conspicuous ornamentation in females has been insufficiently studied. Genetic correlation between the sexes and sexual or social selection on females have been proposed to explain female ornamentation, but they cannot fully explain certain patterns observed in nature such as female ornamentation in non-territorial, promiscuous species. The species recognition hypothesis, which postulates that ornamentation is adaptive because it prevents maladaptive hybridization, might plausibly explain female ornamentation. We examined this in two sympatric, non-territorial, promiscuous fish species, Tribolodon hakonensis (TH) and Tribolodon sachalinensis (TS), in which both sexes display species-specific conspicuous coloration in the breeding season. We conducted experiments on visual mate choice of male TH for conspecific and heterospecific females, and compared their association times. TH spent more time near conspecifics, indicating that they used visual cues to recognize them. Because the females of the two species presented to the males did not differ in body size, shape or behavior, male preference for conspecifics was probably based on female nuptial coloration. These results suggest that female ornamentation may evolve or be maintained not only by sexual or social selection within a species but also by interspecific interactions (e.g., hybridization).


Male mate choice Sexual monomorphism Sexual isolation Breeding coloration Far Eastern daces 



We are grateful to T. Ishii for tremendous help in setting up the experimental system, to M. Kudoh, K. Takahashi, T. Tsuruya, and K. Tomita for sampling assistance, and to all the staff of the Tomakomai Experimental Forest of Hokkaido University for their support of this research. We thank the three anonymous reviewers who provided constructive comments on the manuscript. We also thank M. Kikuchi and Salmon Hometown Chitose Aquarium for allowing us to conduct preliminary trials by computer animation, C. Ayer for checking the English of the manuscript, and Y. Ohkubo for advice on the statistical analyses.

Author contributions

K. A. designed the study and performed the experiments; O. K. contributed to the study design; K. A., O. K., and I. K. prepared the manuscript.


This study was supported by a Sasakawa Scientific Research Grant from the Japan Science Society, by the Fujiwara Natural History Foundation, by a grant-in-aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) for a research fellow (18J10096) to K. A., and by a JSPS KAKENHI grant (17H03725) to O. K.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Ethical approval

Formal approval for the experiment was granted by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Hokkaido University (approval no. 28-2). Sampling was approved by the local government of Hokkaido Prefecture.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 48 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (RMD 4 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (XLSX 13 kb)
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Supplementary material 4 (RMD 7 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Environmental ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Tomakomai Experimental Forest, Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversityTomakomaiJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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