We report two independent cases of female preferences for novel male traits in two species of poeciliid fish, Poecilia latipinna and Poecilia mexicana. In both cases the preference predates the occurrence of the trait, lending strong support to the pre-existing bias hypotheses. This support is independent of the assumptions associated with phylogenetic inference. Unlike the two sexual species, the unisexual hybrid P. formosa had no detectable preference for the novel male traits.
Kin selection explains conditions under which closely related individuals should be less antagonistic towards one another. One benefit of kin selection is a reduction in aggression towards kin in various social contexts, such as foraging. In the gynogenetic Amazon molly, females have been shown to differentiate between clone types, preferring to associate with clonal sisters to non-sisters, regulating their aggressive behaviours accordingly. We ask if Amazon mollies in resource-limited environments retain the ability to regulate aggressive behaviours according to relatedness. We found that focal females regulated their aggressive behaviours depending on partner type. Females spent more time behaving aggressively towards the heterospecific females than either of the clonal lineages, and towards non-sister clones compared to clonal sisters. We are able to confirm that kin discrimination is maintained, resulting in females showing more aggression towards heterospecific females and non-sister clones in a food-limited environment, and that this aggression scales with relatedness.
Animals colonizing lightless subterranean habitats can no longer rely on visual signals to find mating partners. In the present study, we investigated the ability of males to recognize females in two surface and a cave dwelling population of a livebearing fish, Poecilia mexicana. In surface populations males discriminated between sexes with visual plus non-visual cues available and with visual stimuli only. In the cave form the ability to discriminate with solely visual stimuli is lacking. In all three populations, males did not recognize females in darkness (infrared observations), suggesting that sex recognition via far-field communication is lacking in surface and cave dwelling P.mexicana. Different preferences in large and small males to stay near a female or a male stimulus fish probably reflect differences concerning a trade-off between sexual and aggressive behaviour.
The all-female fish Poecilia formosa uses sperm of Poecilia latipinna or P. mexicana for its gynogenetic reproduction. Normally, P. formosa lives in sympatry with only one of these species. Near Tampico, Mexico, one population of P. formosa is living in sympatry with both sperm-donor species. In the present study, using animated videos as stimuli, we examined whether P. formosa from Tampico show a sexual preference for males of one of the two species. We raised P. formosa females with males of P. latipinna or P. mexicana only, and as a control with males of both species simultaneously. We found that previous experience affects mating preferences in P. formosa. Females tend to prefer males of the species they were raised with.
Females of many species receive male attention that reflects a conflict between the sexes over reproduction. Here we demonstrate that female sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna) suffer such a cost via a reduction of their feeding time in the presence of males. Female sailfin mollies spend significantly more time feeding when accompanied by an Amazon molly (P.formosa) or a sailfin molly female than when accompanied by a male sailfin molly. Furthermore, we show that male sexual harassment is size dependent and that small males impose a greater cost on females.
Previous studies revealed that females of a cave form of the livebearing fish Poecilia mexicana (cave molly) have maintained the ancestral visual preference for large males, but — as an adaptation to life in darkness — they have evolved the novel capability to assess male size non-visually. Here we examined the mechanisms by which non-visual mate choice for large body size occurs. Are sex- and species-specific chemical cues involved in this preference for large conspecifics? We gave focal females an opportunity to associate with a large and a small stimulus fish in simultaneous choice tests, whereby the females could perceive either multiple cues (visual plus non-visual) from the stimulus fish, solely non-visual cues in darkness, or solely visual cues. Stimulus fish were two conspecific males, conspecific females, or heterospecific females (Xiphophorus hellerii). Cave molly females showed a significant preference for large conspecific males and for large conspecific females in all treatments. When a large and a small swordtail female were presented, cave molly females showed a preference for the larger fish only when exclusively visual cues from the stimulus fish were available. The non-visual preference for large body size appears to be mediated by species- but not by sex-specific cues, suggesting that species-specific chemical cues play an important role during mate choice.