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Abstract

Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum of two different color morphs (striped or white), each of which had been taken care of from spawning up to 7 weeks of age by foster parents of the other color morph, were put together in a “free choice situation” and tested for their preference to spawn with a mate of the striped or of the white morph. The number of pairs of the same color (striped × striped, white × white) and of different color (“mixed” pairs, striped × white) was recorded and compared with the results of control fish. The latter had been taken care of from spawning up to 7 weeks of age by foster parents of the same color morph and were also tested in a free choice situation. The influence of parental color morph on mate choice was analysed in the first mate choice of naive animals (breeding for the first time). The stability over time of the preferences observed in the naive animals was then studied in the 18 months following the first mate choice experiment.

Our results show that if young Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum had been taken care of by foster parents of the other color morph, but had grown up with siblings of their own color morph, approximately 9 % of the matings involved partners which had a different color (mixed pairs). In contrast, young which had been taken care of by foster parents of their own color morph and had grown up with siblings of their own color were completely segregated according to color during breeding (striped pairs or white pairs) and never formed mixed pairs. The importance of the influence of parental and sibling color morph on the preference to mate with a particular morph and, consequently, on speciation in cichlids in general are discussed.