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Abstract

When colonizing a new habitat, populations must adapt their sexual behaviour to new ecological constraints. Because caves display drastically different conditions from surface habitats and cave animals are deprived from visual information, hypogean populations are expected to have modified their mate preference and signalling behaviour after cave colonization. Here, we experimentally examined the female preference and the sexual behaviour of brook newts Calotriton asper from different cave and river populations, either in light or in darkness. Our results suggest that females prefer large individuals in both hypogean and epigean populations, but that this preference is only expressed in the light conditions of their native habitat. Hence, some mate choice criteria would be maintained across genetically divergent populations and throughout dissimilar habitats. However, this sexual behaviour is likely to be expressed via a different sensory pathway in the different habitats, suggesting that a sensory shift has occurred in cave populations, enabling animals to communicate through a non-visual channel.