Female belly colour and bobbing behaviour advertise sexual receptivity in a pelagic-spawning coral reef fish

in Behaviour
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Female nuptial signals (FNSs) advertise reproductive state, individual quality, and are used in intrasexual competition. I explored whether pelagic-spawning pink-belly wrasse (Halichoeres margaritaceus) used red belly colouration and a unique bobbing behaviour as FNSs to advertise spawning readiness. I examined (i) if there was a temporal pattern in belly colour and incidence of bobbing, as each related to spawning; (ii) response of female belly colouration during male courtship behaviours; and (iii) pink belly area as it related to body area and bobbing rate. Temporal patterns were detected, females displayed ephemeral red belly colour and bobbing behaviour prior to spawning; females displaying red belly colouration elicited more courtship behaviour from males than females with white or pink belly colouration, and larger females displayed larger red belly areas. Benefits to advertising spawning readiness in pink-belly wrasse are discussed, including a reduction in mate-searching costs and potential for increased reproductive success through sex-change.

Female belly colour and bobbing behaviour advertise sexual receptivity in a pelagic-spawning coral reef fish

in Behaviour



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    Field photos of female pink-belly wrasse displaying (a) ‘white’ (rank = 0), (b) ‘pink’ (rank = 1) and (c) ‘red’ (rank = 2) belly colouration. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/1568539x.

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    Paired comparisons of mean belly colour rank for females during the 15-min interval (Interval 1) prior to spawning and overall (Intervals 1–4). Belly colour rank was significantly higher during interval 1 (p=0.001). Error bars are ±1 SD.

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    Repeated measures of mean belly colour rank for six female pink-belly wrasse. Mean belly colour rank did not significantly increase as spawning approached (p=0.29). Intervals are 15 min in duration and presented as the relative time to spawning (indicated by an arrow). Error bars are ±1 SD.

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    The occurrence of bobbing observed among female pink-belly wrasse (N=15) 1 h prior to spawning. The percentage of females bobbing increased significantly as spawning approached (p<0.001). Intervals are 15 min in duration and presented as the relative time to spawning (indicated by an arrow). Note: 100% of females bobbed during interval one.

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    Comparison of mean belly colour rank of female pink-belly wrasse during directed male courtship behaviours (bars) and during a 2-h period prior to spawning (dotted line). Belly colour ranks were significantly higher while engaged with males displaying ‘head-down’, ‘looping’, and ‘head-up quiver’ behaviours, but not significantly different while engaged with males during chase. Error bars are ±1 SD; symbols above bars refer to statistical results from one-sample t-tests using a mean belly colour rank of 1.37 (dotted line): not significant (NS), p0.05, ∗∗p0.01.

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    Correlation between log-transformed mean red belly area and mean body area in female pink-belly wrasse showing that larger females had larger belly areas (p<0.01).


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