Male mating tactics in the rose bitterling (Rhodeus ocellatus) and European bitterling (Rhodeus amarus)
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The aim of this study was to investigate the basis to male mating decisions in two related species of bitterling: Rhodeus ocellatus and R. amarus. Bitterling have a resource-based mating system; females lay eggs in the gills of live freshwater mussels and males fertilize the eggs by releasing sperm into the inhalant syphon of the mussel. Male bitterling perform courtship behaviour and aggressively defend mussels in a territory from which they exclude other males. Using laboratory and field experiments it was shown that male aggressive behaviour is inherited through additive maternal genes. Male aggression is also influenced by the number of conspecific males encountered in competition for a mussel, and by the degree of clustering of mussels. Limited availability of mussels results in stronger selection on traits males use in mating context: hence they are more aggressive, larger and more colourful. The differences in mating behaviours in different environments may indicate a conflict between male dominance and female choice, but have not led to reproductive isolation. Resource availability during ontogenesis and male density during embryogenesis, however, do not exert an effect on male aggressive behaviour. Red carotenoid-based nuptial coloration functions as an inter- and intra-sexual signal and undergoes rapid variation in response to changes in mating context. Male bitterling do not modulate their courtship and aggressive behaviour in response to variation in female size, and their choice of mussel species is influenced by, and consistent with, female oviposition choice.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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