Turbidity Hampers Mate Choice in a Pipefish


Josefin Sundin, Department of Ecology and Evolution/Animal Ecology, Norbyvägen 18 D, SE 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.
E-mail: josefin.sundin@ebc.uu.se


European coastal waters have in recent years become more turbid as algal growth has increased, probably due to eutrophication, global warming and changes in fish communities. Turbidity reduces visibility, and such changes may in turn affect animal behaviour as well as evolutionary processes that are dependent on visual stimuli. In this study we experimentally manipulated water visibility and olfactory cues to investigate mate choice using the sex role-reversed broad-nosed pipefish Syngnathus typhle as our study organism. We show that males spent significantly longer time assessing females when they had access to full visual cues, compared to when visibility was reduced. Presence or absence of olfactory cues from females did not affect mate choice, suggesting that the possible use of smell could not make up for a reduction in visibility. This implies that mate choice is environmentally dependent and that an increased turbidity may affect processes of sexual selection through an impaired possibility for visually based mate choice.