Preference polymorphism for coloration but no speciation in a population of Lake Victoria cichlids

van der Sluijs, Inke; van Alphen, Jacques; Seehausen, Ole (2007). Preference polymorphism for coloration but no speciation in a population of Lake Victoria cichlids. Behavioral Ecology, 19(1), pp. 177-183. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press 10.1093/beheco/arm120

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Female mating preference based on male nuptial coloration has been suggested to be an important source of diversifying selection in the radiation of Lake Victoria cichlid fish. Initial variation in female preference is a prerequisite for diversifying selection; however, it is rarely studied in natural populations. In clear water areas of Lake Victoria, the sibling species Pundamilia pundamilia with blue males and Pundamilia nyererei with red males coexist, intermediate phenotypes are rare, and most females have species-assortative mating preferences. Here, we study a population of Pundamilia that inhabits turbid water where male coloration is variable from reddish to blue with most males intermediate. We investigated male phenotype distribution and female mating preferences. Male phenotype was unimodally distributed with a mode on intermediate color in 1 year and more blue-shifted in 2 other years. In mate choice experiments with females of the turbid water population and males from a clearer water population, we found females with a significant and consistent preference for P. pundamilia (blue) males, females with such preferences for P. nyererei (red) males, and many females without a preference. Hence, female mating preferences in this population could cause disruptive selection on male coloration that is probably constrained by the low signal transduction of the turbid water environment. We suggest that if environmental signal transduction was improved and the preference/color polymorphism was stabilized by negative frequency-dependent selection, divergent sexual selection might separate the 2 morphs into reproductively isolated species resembling the clear water species P. pundamilia and P. nyererei.

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




Oxford University Press




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:58

Last Modified:

24 Oct 2019 00:25

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Web of Science ID:




URI: (FactScience: 52916)

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