Intrasexual competition among females and the stabilization of a conspicuous colour polymorphism in a Lake Victoria cichlid fish

Dijkstra, Peter; Seehausen, Ole; Groothuis, Ton (2007). Intrasexual competition among females and the stabilization of a conspicuous colour polymorphism in a Lake Victoria cichlid fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society. Series B - biological sciences, 275(1634), pp. 519-526. London: Royal Society of London 10.1098/rspb.2007.1441

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

The maintenance of colour polymorphisms within populations has been a long-standing interest in evolutionary ecology. African cichlid fish contain some of the most striking known cases of this phenomenon. Intrasexual selection can be negative frequency dependent when males bias aggression towards phenotypically similar rivals, stabilizing male colour polymorphisms. We propose that where females are territorial and competitive, aggression biases in females may also promote coexistence of female morphs. We studied a polymorphic population of the cichlid fish Neochromis omnicaeruleus from Lake Victoria, in which three distinct female colour morphs coexist: one plain brown and two blotched morphs. Using simulated intruder choice tests in the laboratory, we show that wild-caught females of each morph bias aggression towards females of their own morph, suggesting that females of all three morphs may have an advantage when their morph is locally the least abundant. This mechanism may contribute to the establishment and stabilization of colour polymorphisms. Next, by crossing the morphs, we generated sisters belonging to different colour morphs. We find no sign of aggression bias in these sisters, making pleiotropy unlikely to explain the association between colour and aggression bias in wild fish, which is maintained in the face of gene flow. We conclude that female-female aggression may be one important force for stabilizing colour polymorphism in cichlid fish.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Aquatic Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Seehausen, Ole




Royal Society of London




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:58

Last Modified:

17 Mar 2015 22:06

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Web of Science ID:


URI: (FactScience: 52901)

Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback