Variation in mating preferences coupled with selective predation may allow for the maintenance of alternative mating strategies. Males of the South American live-bearing fish Poecilia parae fall in one of five discrete morphs: red, yellow, blue, stripe-coloured tail (parae) and female mimic (immaculata). Field surveys indicate that the red and yellow morphs are the rarest and that their rarity is consistent across years. We explored the role of variable female mating preference and selective predation by visual predators in explaining the rarity of red and yellow males, and more generally, the maintenance of this extreme colour polymorphism. We presented wild-caught P. parae females and Aequidens tetramerus, the most common cichlid predator, with the five male colour morphs in separate trials to determine mating and prey preferences, respectively. We found that a large proportion of females shared a strong preference for the rare carotenoid-based red and yellow males, but a distinct group also preferred the blue and parae morphs. The cichlid predator strongly preferred red and yellow males as prey. Together, these results suggest that the interaction between premating sexual selection favouring and predation acting against the red and yellow morphs may explain their rarity in the wild. The trade-off between sexual and natural selection, accompanied by variation in female mating preferences, may therefore facilitate the maintenance of the striking colour polymorphism in P. parae.
- Colour polymorphism
- Natural selection
- Sexual selection
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics