Seeing orange: breeding convict cichlids exhibit heightened aggression against more colorful intruders
Female convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia) exhibit bright orange ventral coloration that males lack. The behavioral implications of this color are poorly understood, particularly in naturally occurring populations where female coloration could play a role in the expression of territorial nest-guarding behaviors. In this field experiment, monogamous breeding pairs of convict cichlids were presented with 3D printed model conspecific intruders of three body sizes (small, medium, and large) exhibiting three orange patch sizes (large, small, or none) to observe how territorial aggression varied as a function of intruder size and female coloration. Individuals occupying breeding pairs that were defending hatched offspring were significantly more aggressive toward intruders with small and large amounts of orange than toward models lacking orange, indicating that color is an important context-dependent elicitor of aggression in this species. Males were significantly more aggressive toward the intruder than females, and male aggression was strongly influenced by their size relative to the intruder. When males were smaller than the intruder, they performed significantly more aggressive acts than when they were the same size or larger than the intruder; this trend persisted across three putative populations in Lake Xiloa, Nicaragua. A potential explanation for these findings is that the orange color functions as a signal of individual quality or breeding readiness and that breeding pairs increase aggression to repel intruders that pose the greatest threat to pair bond and nest maintenance.
One or both sexes of many animal species possess brightly colored features that might communicate information about overall heath or reproductive status. In convict cichlid fish, males and females establish pair bonds and jointly defend their nest and offspring. Single females exhibit striking orange coloration that males and breeding females lack. Our field-based experiment provided evidence that more colorful females, which likely pose a threat to pair bond stability and nest maintenance, incite more aggression from breeding pairs than drab females. Our study suggests that color provides salient information about, perhaps, female quality or readiness to breed in natural populations, and adds to a growing body of research that seeks to understand the varied roles that colorful ornaments play in animal communication.
KeywordsConvict cichlid Carotenoid Aggression Color Sexual dimorphism
- Alonzo JJ, McKaye KR, van den Berghe EP (2001) Parental defense of young by the convict cichlid, Archocentrus nigrofasciatus, in Lake Xiloá, Nicaragua. J Aquaricult Aquat Sci 9:208–228Google Scholar
- Fernandez GC (2007) Model selection in PROC MIXED—a user-friendly SAS® macro application. SAS Global Forum 2007 Orlando, FLGoogle Scholar
- Sheikhzadeh N (2013) Influence of Dietary Vegetable Crops on Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) Immune System and Growth Performance. Acta Sci Vet 41:1109Google Scholar
- Tachibana K, Yagi M, Hara K, Mishima T, Tsuchimoto M (1997) Effects of feeding of β-carotene-supplemented rotifers on survival and lymphocyte proliferation reaction of fish larvae (Japanese parrotfish (Oplegnathus fasciatus) and Spotted parrotfish (Oplegnathus punctatus)): preliminary trials. Hydrobiologia 358:313–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- van Breukelen NA, Draud M (2005) The roles of male size and female eavesdropping in divorce in the monogamous convict cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus, Cichlidae). Behaviour 142:1029–1041Google Scholar