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Individual Variation in Male Size and Behavioral Repertoire in the Sailfin Molly Poecilia latipinna


Margaret B. Ptacek, Department of Biological Sciences, 132 Long Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0314, USA.


Variation among individuals in the expression of behaviors and associations of behaviors in different contexts can lead to the maintenance of behavioral polymorphisms. Individual variation in morphology is often associated with behavioral polymorphism, yet the degree to which morphology predicts behavioral phenotype is not well understood. We measured individual variation in size and behaviors in the sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna, by comparing the behavior of individual males of different sizes across four different contexts (mating, exploratory tendency, sociability, and predator inspection). We also investigated the degree to which male size, a fixed genetic trait, influenced the expression of each behavior and associations between behaviors. We found that male mollies show strong associations between certain behaviors and only some of these are predicted by male size. For example, size has a strong influence on the courtship-boldness axis with larger males showing higher rates of courtship displays and being bolder in predator inspection. A positive association was found between exploratory tendency, sociability, and gonopodial thrusting rates, yet the expression of these behaviors was independent of male size. Thus, sailfin mollies, like many fish species, show associations of behaviors that contribute to differences among males in personality type. The fixed genetic effect of male size at maturity influences courtship and boldness, but individual variation in exploratory tendency, sociability, and sneak copulation attempts through gonopodial thrusts is independent of male size. Such variation among males in behavioral associations within and between different contexts may slow the rate at which populations of Platipinna can diverge in individual behaviors.