Ecological speciation is facilitated when divergent adaptation has direct effects on selective mating. Divergent sensory adaptation could generate such direct effects, by mediating both ecological performance and mate selection. In aquatic environments, light attenuation creates distinct photic environments, generating divergent selection on visual systems. Consequently, divergent sensory drive has been implicated in the diversification of several fish species. Here, we experimentally test whether divergent visual adaptation explains the divergence of mate preferences in Haplochromine cichlids. Blue and red Pundamilia co-occur across southeastern Lake Victoria. They inhabit different photic conditions and have distinct visual system properties. Previously, we documented that rearing fish under different light conditions influences female preference for blue versus. red males. Here, we examine to what extent variation in female mate preference can be explained by variation in visual system properties, testing the causal link between visual perception and preference. We find that our experimental light manipulations influence opsin expression, suggesting a potential role for phenotypic plasticity in optimizing visual performance. However, variation in opsin expression does not explain species differences in female preference. Instead, female preference covaries with allelic variation in the long-wavelength sensitive opsin gene (LWS), when assessed under broad-spectrum light. Taken together, our study presents evidence for environmental plasticity in opsin expression and confirms the important role of colour perception in shaping female mate preferences in Pundamilia. However, it does not constitute unequivocal evidence for the direct effects of visual adaptation on assortative mating.
Replication Data for: Testing sensory drive speciation in cichlid fish: linking light conditions to opsin expression, opsin genotype, and female mate preference
Wright, S. (Contributor), van Eijk, R. (Contributor), Schuart, L. (Contributor), Seehausen, O. (Contributor), Groothuis, A. (Contributor) & Maan, M. (Contributor), University of Groningen, 19-dec-2019