Visual adaptation and microhabitat choice in Lake Victoria cichlid fish

Daniel Mameri, Corina van Kammen, Ton G G Groothuis, Ole Seehausen, Martine E Maan

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When different genotypes choose different habitats to better match their phenotypes, genetic differentiation within a population may be promoted. Mating within those habitats may subsequently contribute to reproductive isolation. In cichlid fish, visual adaptation to alternative visual environments is hypothesized to contribute to speciation. Here, we investigated whether variation in visual sensitivity causes different visual habitat preferences, using two closely related cichlid species that occur at different but overlapping water depths in Lake Victoria and that differ in visual perception (Pundamilia spp.). In addition to species differences, we explored potential effects of visual plasticity, by rearing fish in two different light conditions: broad-spectrum (mimicking shallow water) and red-shifted (mimicking deeper waters). Contrary to expectations, fish did not prefer the light environment that mimicked their typical natural habitat. Instead, we found an overall preference for the broad-spectrum environment. We also found a transient influence of the rearing condition, indicating that the assessment of microhabitat preference requires repeated testing to control for familiarity effects. Together, our results show that cichlid fish exert visual habitat preference but do not support straightforward visual habitat matching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181876
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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