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J Exp Biol. 2005 Apr;208(Pt 8):1453-8.

The role of ultraviolet wavelengths in the mate-choice decisions of female three-spined sticklebacks.

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The University of Edinburgh, Institute of Cell and Animal Population Biology, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, Scotland.


Female three-spined sticklebacks have been found to use visual cues when responding sexually towards courting males, often preferring more intensely red-coloured males, and males with blue rather than silver irises. However, traditionally the literature has failed to test preference across the full spectral range to which females might be sensitive, limiting analysis to the human-visible wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. We studied the effects that the addition of ultraviolet wavelengths has on the mate-choice preferences of female sticklebacks using a two-choice paradigm. We found that females preferred males that were viewed across the full spectrum to males whose display lacked an ultraviolet component. Using suitable controls we were able to establish that female preference was sexually motivated and was not caused by a general preference for the manipulated light conditions. Our results indicate that female preference may be due to an enhancement in visual contrast when males are viewed in full spectrum conditions.

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