Mating Preferences of the Gynogenetic Amazon Molly Differ Between Populations Sympatric with Different Host Species

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Abstract

Gynogenetic species rely on sperm from heterospecifics for reproduction but do not receive genetic benefits from mating because none of the paternal genome is incorporated into offspring. The gynogenetic Amazon molly (Poecilia formosa) is a species of hybrid origins that are sympatric with one of the two parent species that provide sperm for reproduction, P. latipinna or P. mexicana. Amazons should not prefer to mate with one species over the other because sperm from both species will trigger embryogenesis, but mating preferences may be present in Amazons through other mechanisms. Amazons may prefer the more familiar species (males found in sympatry), or Amazons may prefer males with the greatest lateral projection area (LPA), a preference that is present in the parent species and may be retained within the Amazon hybrid genome. We tested association preferences of two populations of Amazons sympatric with either P. mexicana or P. latipinna. We first performed live trials to test whether Amazons preferred one host species over the other and found that neither population of Amazons showed a preference. We then tested whether Amazons preferred sympatric male (familiar) host or the male with the greatest lateral projection area (LPA) using four animated male models that varied in host species and manipulation of LPA. We found Amazons from a population sympatric with P. latipinna showed no variation in their association preference across the different models. In contrast, Amazons from a population sympatric with P. mexicana (naturally small LPA) spent more time associating with the male models that had smaller LPA, which is more familiar to this population of Amazons. We suggest that Amazons may have population differences in mating preferences, where Amazons sympatric with P. latipinna may not show mating preference for host species, but Amazons sympatric with P. mexicana may show preferences for more familiar-shaped males.

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