Reduction of the association preference for conspecifics in cave-dwelling Atlantic mollies, Poecilia mexicana
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- Riesch, R., Schlupp, I., Tobler, M. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2006) 60: 794. doi:10.1007/s00265-006-0223-z
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Cave animals are widely recognised as model organisms to study regressive evolutionary processes like the reduction of eyes. In this paper, we report on the regressive evolution of species discrimination in the cave molly, Poecilia mexicana, which, unlike other cave fishes, still has functional eyes. This allowed us to examine the response to both visual and non-visual cues involved in species discrimination. When surface-dwelling females were given a chance to associate with either a conspecific or a swordtail (Xiphophorus hellerii) female, they strongly preferred the conspecific female both when multiple cues and when solely visual cues were available to the female. No association preference was observed when only non-visual cues were provided. In contrast, cave-dwelling females showed no preference under all testing conditions, suggesting that species recognition mechanisms have been reduced. We discuss the role of species discrimination in relation to habitat differences.