Where I go is what I see? Visual adaptation and matching habitat choice in cichlid fish

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Individual fitness may be enhanced by moving into habitats that better match the phenotype. Such habitat matching behaviour modifies the spatial distribution of phenotypes and genotypes, potentially facilitating niche segregation and assortative mating. Because identifying and evaluating suitable habitats often relies on sensory systems, variation in sensory abilities among individuals or species may translate into differences in habitat choice, with individuals choosing habitats matching their sensory system properties. Here, we explored whether variation in visual system properties correlates with visual habitat preferences, using three cichlid species occupying different water depth ranges in Lake Victoria. In addition, we assessed whether visual plasticity influenced individual tendency to explore alternative visual environments and tested for a correlation between opsin gene expression patterns and the amount of time spent in a particular light condition. We found that each of the three tested species spent most time in short-wavelength (blue) light conditions. In one of the species, variation in the light conditions experienced during ontogeny changed the visual habitat preference. We found only weak support for an association of opsin gene expression and light preference. Together, our results show that variation in visual system properties does not lead to different visual habitat preference in haplochromine cichlids; instead they showed consistent preferences for a blue light environment.
Event titleEuropean Conference on Behavioural Biology 2022: All of life is social!
Event typeConference
LocationGroningen, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational