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Horm Behav. 2008 Aug;54(3):463-70. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.05.006. Epub 2008 May 22.

Color change as a potential behavioral strategy.

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1
Department of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience Program, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA. wkorzan@stanford.edu

Abstract

Within species, color morphs may enhance camouflage, improve communication and/or confer reproductive advantage. However, in the male cichlid Astatotilapia burtoni, body color may also signal a behavioral strategy. A. burtoni live in a lek-like social system in Lake Tanganyika, Africa where bright blue or yellow territorial (T) males (together ~10-30% of the population) are reproductively capable and defend territories containing food with a spawning site. In contrast, non-territorial (NT) males are smaller, cryptically colored, shoal with females and have regressed gonads. Importantly, males switch between these social states depending on their success in aggressive encounters. Yellow and blue morphs were thought to be adaptations to particular habitats, but they co-exist both in nature and in the laboratory. Importantly, individual males can switch colors so we asked whether color influences behavioral and hormonal profiles. When pairing territorial males with opposite colored fish, yellow males became dominant over blue males significantly more frequently. Moreover, yellow T males had significantly higher levels of 11-ketotosterone than blue T males while only blue NT males had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to the other groups. Thus color differences alone predict dominance status and hormone profiles in T males. Since T males can and do change color, this suggests that A. burtoni may use color as a flexible behavioral strategy.

PMID:
18586245
PMCID:
PMC3019090
DOI:
10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.05.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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