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Data from: Male courtship preferences demonstrate discrimination against allopatric colour morphs in a cichlid fish


Zoppoth, Peter; Koblmüller, Stephan; Sefc, Kristina M. (2012), Data from: Male courtship preferences demonstrate discrimination against allopatric colour morphs in a cichlid fish, Dryad, Dataset,


Whether premating isolation is achieved by male-specific, female-specific or sex-independent assortative preferences often depends on the underlying evolutionary processes. Here we test mate preferences of males presented with females of different allopatric colour variants of the cichlid fish Tropheus, a Lake Tanganyika endemic with rich geographic colour pattern variation, in which the strength of sexual isolation varies between populations. We conducted two-way mate choice experiments to compare behaviour of males of a red-bodied morph (population Moliro) towards females from their own population with behaviour towards females from four allopatric populations at different stages of phylogenetic and phenotypic divergence. Males courted same-population females significantly more intensely than females of other populations, and reduced their heteromorphic courtship efforts both with increasing genetic and increasing phenotypic distinctness of the females. In particular, females of a closely related red-bodied population received significantly more courtship than either genetically distinct, similarly coloured females (“Kirschfleck” morph) or genetically related, differently coloured females (“yellow-blotch” morph), both of which were courted similarly. Genetically and phenotypically distinct females (T. polli) were not courted at all. Consistent with previous female-choice experiments, female courtship activity also decreased with increasing genetic distance from the males’ population. Given successful experimental and natural introgression between colour morphs and the pervasive allopatry of related variants, we consider it unlikely that assortative preferences of both sexes were driven by direct selection during periods of secondary contact or, in turn, drove colour pattern differentiation in allopatry. Rather, we suggest that sexual isolation evolved as by-product of allopatric divergence.

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Lake Tanganyika