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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Aug 7;275(1644):1737-44. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0072.

Viability of brown trout embryos positively linked to melanin-based but negatively to carotenoid-based colours of their fathers.

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biophore, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


'Good-genes' models of sexual selection predict significant additive genetic variation for fitness-correlated traits within populations to be revealed by phenotypic traits. To test this prediction, we sampled brown trout (Salmo trutta) from their natural spawning place, analysed their carotenoid-based red and melanin-based dark skin colours and tested whether these colours can be used to predict offspring viability. We produced half-sib families by in vitro fertilization, reared the resulting embryos under standardized conditions, released the hatchlings into a streamlet and identified the surviving juveniles 20 months later with microsatellite markers. Embryo viability was revealed by the sires' dark pigmentation: darker males sired more viable offspring. However, the sires' red coloration correlated negatively with embryo survival. Our study demonstrates that genetic variation for fitness-correlated traits is revealed by male colour traits in our study population, but contrary to predictions from other studies, intense red colours do not signal good genes.

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