Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 97, Issue 4, pp 335–341 | Cite as

Male coloration signals direct benefits in the European bitterling (Rhodeus amarus)

  • Carl Smith
  • André Phillips
  • Matej Polačik
  • Martin Reichard


Female mating preferences are frequently associated with exaggerated male sexual traits. In the European bitterling, Rhodeus amarus, a fish with a resource-based mating system, male coloration is not associated with indirect genetic benefits of female mate choice, and does not reliably signal spawning site quality. We tested a link between the extent of male carotenoid-based coloration and testis size and number of spermatozoa stripped from the testes. Male body size predicted spermatozoa number, but less reliably than the extent of male coloration. Male color was a highly significant predictor of spermatozoa number, with approximately 26 % of variance in the number of spermatozoa stripped from males predicted from male color after controlling for male body size. Body size, but not coloration, predicted teste size. Female bitterling often risk sperm limitation, especially during pair spawnings, and male nuptial coloration may be under direct selection through female mate choice as a signal of male fertilization efficiency.


Oviposition Mate choice Mating system Nuptial coloration Sexual selection Spermatozoa 



We are grateful for constructive comments by Rowena Spence and two anonymous reviewers. Financial support came from Czech Science Foundation grant 206/09/1163. Experimental procedures conformed to Czech and British legal requirements and the study was overseen by the University of St Andrews Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  • André Phillips
    • 1
  • Matej Polačik
    • 2
  • Martin Reichard
    • 2
  1. 1.School of BiologyUniversity of St. AndrewsFifeUK
  2. 2.Institute of Vertebrate BiologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicBrnoCzech Republic

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