Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ecologists get fish eye view of sexual signals

Date:
November 9, 2010
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Ecologists have developed an ingenious model of a fish's visual system. By providing a more accurate picture of how sticklebacks see color, the model sheds new light on how female fish use certain colors on a male's skin to select a mate.

Carotenoid pigments are the source of many of the animal kingdom's most vivid colours; flamingos' pink feathers come from eating carotenoid-containing shrimps and algae, and carotenoid colours can be seen among garden birds in blackbirds' orange beaks and blue tits' yellow breast feathers.

These pigments play a crucial role in sexual signals. According to the study's lead author Dr Tom Pike of the University of Exeter: "Females typically use carotenoid colours to assess the quality of a potential mate, with more colourful males generally being regarded as the most attractive."

This long-held assumption is, however, hard to study because we see colour very differently to fish and previous studies have not taken such differences into account, instead comparing only the colours perceived by humans.

"The major difference between stickleback vision and our own is that they can see ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. This may be important because carotenoids reflect ultraviolet light as well as the red, oranges and yellows that we can see," Dr Pike explains.

The model developed by Dr Pike and colleagues from the University of Glasgow and Nofima Marine in Norway mimics the stickleback's visual system, allowing the researchers to determine what 'colours' the fish see. "The model tells us how much of the light reflected from a carotenoid signal is actually detected by a female and how this information might be processed by her brain, and so gives us exciting new insights into how females may use colour to choose the best mates," says Dr Pike.

Male sticklebacks can fine tune the colours they display to females by varying both the overall amount of carotenoids and the relative amount of the two constituent carotenoids, the red-coloured astaxanthin and the yellow tunaxanthin. The model reveals that sticklebacks' visual system and coloration are extremely well co-adapted, and that females are surprisingly good at assessing the quantity of carotenoids a male is able to put in his signal -- which previous studies by the authors have shown is linked to his parenting ability.

The results will help ecologists get a better understanding of why carotenoid-based signals evolved in the first place, and provides insights into why males use the specific carotenoids they do. According to Dr Pike: "There are many carotenoids in the sticklebacks' diet, but males use only two of them for signalling; because the visual system evolved long before male coloration in this species, it suggests that males 'chose' to use those two carotenoids to make the most of what the female fish sees."

The study was funded by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas W. Pike, Bjψrn Bjerkeng, Jonathan D. Blount, Jan Lindstrφm, Neil B. Metcalfe. How integument colour reflects its carotenoid content: a stickleback’s perspective. Functional Ecology, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2010.01781.x

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Ecologists get fish eye view of sexual signals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101109191757.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2010, November 9). Ecologists get fish eye view of sexual signals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101109191757.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Ecologists get fish eye view of sexual signals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101109191757.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Two white lion cubs were born in Belgrade zoo three weeks ago. White lions are a rare mutation of a species found in South Africa and some cultures consider them divine. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) — Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

AP (Oct. 16, 2014) — With hard cider making a hardcore comeback across the country, craft makers are trying to keep up with demand and apple growers are tapping a juicy new revenue stream. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Buzz60 (Oct. 16, 2014) — Garfi is one frowny, feisty feline - downright angry! Ko Im (@koimtv) introduces us to the latest animal celebrity taking over the Internet. You can follow more of Garfi's adventures on Twitter (@MeetGarfi) and Facebook (Garfi). Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins