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 August 29, 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 August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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