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Disruptive sexual selection on male nuptial coloration in an experimental hybrid population of cichlid fish

Seehausen, Ole; van der Sluijs, Inke; Pierotti, Michele E. R.; Stelkens, Rike B.; Smith, Alan M.; Joyce, Domino A.


Ole Seehausen

Inke van der Sluijs

Michele E. R. Pierotti

Rike B. Stelkens

Alan M. Smith


Theory suggests that genetic polymorphisms in female mating preferences may cause disruptive selection on male traits, facilitating phenotypic differentiation despite gene flow, as in reinforcement or other models of speciation with gene flow. Very little experimental data have been published to test the assumptions regarding the genetics of mate choice that such theory relies on. We generated a population segregating for female mating preferences and male colour dissociated from other species differences by breeding hybrids between species of the cichlid fish genus Pundamilia. We measured male mating success as a function of male colour. First, we demonstrate that non- hybrid females of both species use male nuptial coloration for choosing mates, but with inversed preferences. Second, we show that variation in female mating preferences in an F2 hybrid population generates a quadratic fitness function for male coloration suggestive of disruptive selection: intermediate males obtained fewer matings than males at either extreme of the colour range. If the genetics of female mate choice in Pundamilia are representative for those in other species of Lake Victoria cichlid fish, it may help explain the origin and maintenance of phenotypic diversity despite some gene flow.


Seehausen, O., van der Sluijs, I., Pierotti, M. E. R., Stelkens, R. B., Smith, A. M., & Joyce, D. A. (2008). Disruptive sexual selection on male nuptial coloration in an experimental hybrid population of cichlid fish. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 363(1505), 2861-2870.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 12, 2008
Publication Date Sep 12, 2008
Print ISSN 0962-8436
Electronic ISSN 1471-2970
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 363
Issue 1505
Pages 2861-2870
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Public URL