Character displacement is commonly observed when species occur in secondary contact zones and traits related to resource competition or reproduction diverge in sympatry. However, few studies have considered the factors determining and delimiting the direction of character evolution in this context. We studied displacement in advertisement calls in two species of hylid frogs from allopatric and sympatric populations, both of which call with similar frequencies but differ substantially in temporal parameters. We found asymmetrical character displacement in sympatry, as only Scinax madeirae (but not S. fuscomarginatus) repeatedly showed displacement. Instead of diverging in already existing differences in temporal characters, S. madeirae showed character displacement for frequency-related characters. We explored possible reasons for this specific pattern concerning the displaced characters and tested if socio-functional constraints in specific call parameters are responsible for the shift of only spectral parameters in that species. Finally, we argue that the simultaneous action of ecological and reproductive character displacement, or alternatively, a short-term behavioral response for the same reason (avoidance of hybridization) could explain the pattern. The present study identifies a set of new hypotheses that will stimulate future research on mechanisms of mate recognition and behavioral responses.
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.
We examined chemical communication in male and female European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis). In simultaneous binary choice tests, a focal animal was given a choice between pheromones from a conspecific and a choice chamber containing untreated water. Females did not show a preference, both when male and when female stimuli were presented. On the contrary, males preferred the odor of a female over untreated water, suggesting that males actively search for females. The strength of preference was positively correlated with the body size difference between the female and the focal male, indicating that males prefer to mate with larger females. Female fecundity is positively correlated with female size in E. orbicularis, which may account for male choosiness. No overall preference for the stimulus animal was observed when males were presented cues from another male. However, the strength of preference was negatively correlated with the difference in body size. Males avoided large males, but oriented towards smaller stimulus males. This reflects that males form dominance hierarchies, where large males aggressively attack smaller ones. Far-range chemical communication probably enables males to minimize the risk of costly aggressive interactions. This is, to our knowledge, the first study on the role of chemical cues for inter and intrasexual communication in the European pond turtle.
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.