Frequency-dependent social dominance in a color polymorphic cichlid fish

Dijkstra, Peter D.; Lindstrom, Jan; Metcalfe, Neil B.; Hemelrijk, Charlotte K.; Brendel, Mischa; Seehausen, Ole; Groothuis, Ton G.G. (2010). Frequency-dependent social dominance in a color polymorphic cichlid fish. Evolution, 64(10), pp. 2797-2807. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01046.x

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A mechanism commonly suggested to explain the persistence of color polymorphisms in animals is negative frequency-dependent selection. It could result from a social dominance advantage to rare morphs. We tested for this in males of red and blue color morphs of the Lake Victoria cichlid, Pundamilia. Earlier work has shown that males preferentially attack the males of their own morph, while red males are more likely to win dyadic contests with blue males. In order to study the potential contribution of both factors to the morph co-existence, we manipulated the proportion of red and blue males in experimental assemblages and studied its effect on social dominance. We then tried to disentangle the effects of the own-morph attack bias and social dominance of red using simulations. In the experiment, we found that red males were indeed socially dominant to the blue ones, but only when rare. However, blue males were not socially dominant when rare. The simulation results suggest that an own-morph attack bias reduces the social dominance of red males when they are more abundant. Thus, there is no evidence of symmetric negative frequency-dependent selection acting on social dominance, suggesting that additional fitness costs to the red morph must explain their co-existence.

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










Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:17

Last Modified:

17 Mar 2015 19:22

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:


URI: (FactScience: 209980)

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