Data from: Developmental effects of visual environment on species-assortative mating preferences in Lake Victoria cichlid fish

  • Daniel Wright (Creator)
  • Nicolle Demandt (Creator)
  • Jeroen Alkema (Creator)
  • Ole Seehausen (Creator)
  • Ton Groothuis (Creator)
  • Martine Maan (Creator)



Local adaptation can be a potent force in speciation, with environmental heterogeneity leading to niche specialization and population divergence. However, local adaption often requires non-random mating in order to generate reproductive isolation. Population divergence in sensory properties can be particularly consequential in speciation, affecting both ecological adaptation and sexual communication. Pundamilia pundamila and Pundamilia nyererei are two closely related African cichlid species that differ in male coloration, blue vs. red. They co-occur at rocky islands in southern Lake Victoria, but inhabit different depth ranges with different light environments. The species differ in colour vision properties and females exert species-specific preferences for blue vs. red males. Here, we investigated the mechanistic link between colour vision and preference, which could provide a rapid route to reproductive isolation. We tested the behavioural components of this link by experimentally manipulating colour perception – we raised both species and their hybrids under light conditions mimicking shallow and deep habitats - and tested female preference for blue and red males under both conditions. We found that rearing light significantly affected female preference: shallow-reared females responded more strongly to P. pundamilia males and deep-reared females favored P. nyererei males - implying that visual development causally affects mate choice. These results are consistent with sensory-drive predictions, suggesting that the visual environment is key to behavioural isolation of these species. However, the observed plasticity could also make the species barrier vulnerable to environmental change: species-assortative preferences were weaker in females that were reared in the other species’ light condition.

The data package contains one dataset:
- Combined data set of F1 mate preference experiment. Sheet #1 ("Key") details the contents of the data found in sheet #2.
Date made available24-Oct-2016
PublisherUniversity of Groningen
Geographical coverageLake Victoria, Mwanza Gulf, Python Islands

Keywords on Datasets

  • colour
  • sensory drive
  • Speciation
  • plasticity
  • Pundamilia pundamilia
  • Pundamilia nyererei

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