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Variation in Melanism and Female Preference in Proximate but Ecologically Distinct Environments

Authors

  • Zachary W. Culumber,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centro de Investigaciones Cientificas de las Huastecas “Aguazarca”, Calnali, Hidalgo, Mexico
    2. Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo, Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
    • Correspondence

      Zachary W. Culumber, Centro de Investigaciones Cientificas de las Huastecas “Aguazarca”, 392 Colonia Aguazarca, 43230 Calnali, Hidalgo, Mexico.

      E-mail: zach@cichaz.org

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  • Christian E. Bautista-Hernández,

    1. Centro de Investigaciones Cientificas de las Huastecas “Aguazarca”, Calnali, Hidalgo, Mexico
    2. Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo, Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
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  • Scott Monks,

    1. Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo, Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
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  • Lenin Arias-Rodriguez,

    1. División Académica de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco (UJAT), Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
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  • Michael Tobler

    1. Department of Zoology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
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  • This article has been updated since first published on 12 July 2014 and subsequently replaced due to inclusion of an author's note not intended for publication. The following reference has now been included: Gabor, C. 1999: Association patterns of sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna): alternative hypotheses. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 46, 333–340.

Abstract

Variation in pigmentation traits is an effective window to evolutionary processes due to their importance for survival and reproduction. In particular, one of the leading hypotheses for the maintenance of conspicuous pigmentation in natural populations is its signaling function in mate choice. Here, we demonstrate the occurrence of melanism in poeciliid fishes of the genus Poecilia that inhabits toxic, hydrogen sulfide springs in southern Mexico and the absence of melanism from closely related populations in reference habitats lacking hydrogen sulfide. Assays of female mate preference in both habitat types were used to examine whether divergence in female preference for melanism contributes to its maintenance in hydrogen sulfide springs. We found significant variation in female preferences for melanistic males. Specifically, melanistic females from the toxic spring exhibited a significant preference for melanistic males, while non-melanistic females from the same population exhibited no preference. Females from the non-sulfidic reference population discriminated strongly against melanistic males. Preferences of melanistic females appear to be a significant force in the maintenance of melanism in sulfidic habitats and suggest a change in preference as the divergence from non-sulfidic ancestors. Potential polymorphism in preference within the hydrogen sulfide spring indicates that preference for melanistic males may not be environmentally controlled. Thus, a change in preference following divergence can promote the maintenance of variation in pigmentation within populations and between divergent habitats.

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