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Role of thyroid hormones in color diversity of male guppies: experimental data on Endler’s guppy (Poecilia wingei)

Thyroid hormones and guppy color diversity


Male guppies display an outstanding diversity of color patterns which is formed as a result of a complex interplay between sexual selection, predation, and other environmental factors. The heterogeneity of the environment affects the variability of ornamental traits in male guppies through genotype–environment interaction. Thyroid hormones (THs) are important regulators of the ontogeny of fish and serve as a link between environmental changes and phenotypic development. However, the role of THs in the formation of a variety of color patterns in male guppies remained poorly understood. In this work, an experimental assessment of the effect of THs on the variability of ornamental traits in Poecilia wingei males was carried out. The fish were reared from birth to the initial stages of the formation of melanistic elements in males and until the final formation of the color pattern; they were subjected to different hormonal regimes: euthyroidism (natural TH status), hyperthyroidism (high TH level, at a triiodo-L-thyronine concentration of 0.15 μg/mL), and hypothyroidism (TH-deficiency, at a thiourea concentration of 0.025%). Alterations in the TH status caused changes in the timing and rate of the development of coloration and affected the transformation of various elements of the color pattern in males. These changes led to an increase in phenotypic variability and the appearance of ornamental traits in the male color patterns that were characteristic of closely related species of Poecilia. Thus, the data obtained indicate a potentially important role of thyroid hormones in the diversification of guppy color patterns and open up new prospects for studying the role of endocrine regulatory mechanisms in the adaptive evolution of poeciliid fish.

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I am grateful to anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. This study was partially supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project no. 18-34-00685.

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The datasets generated during the current study are available on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Denis V. Prazdnikov.

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The author declares no competing interest.

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All experimental procedures with fish were carried out according to the guidelines and following the laws and ethics of the Russian Federation and approved by the ethics committee of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow).

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Prazdnikov, D.V. Role of thyroid hormones in color diversity of male guppies: experimental data on Endler’s guppy (Poecilia wingei). Environ Biol Fish 104, 675–688 (2021).

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  • Color pattern
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Phenotypic diversity
  • Evolution
  • Guppy
  • Poecilia