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Role of male spatial distribution and condition-dependent colouration on female spawning behaviour and reproductive success in bluegills

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Female choice for male ornamental colouration has been demonstrated in a number of different taxa. Among fishes, most studies have been conducted in a laboratory setting and show that females prefer more colourful male ornaments. In this study, we observed female bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) spawning in their natural environment and compared spawning behaviours to male traits and position within a colony. We observed spawning activities of 76 parental males in Lake Opinicon, Ontario. We captured each male and used reflectance spectrometry to objectively quantify the colour of six body regions and measured morphological characteristics. Our results show that female spawning behaviours did not significantly differ between central and peripheral males, although egg scores were higher in central nests. During spawning, females appeared to enter the nests of parental males haphazardly. However, our results suggest that male cheek colouration influenced the number of females spawning, the number of eggs they released, and the amount of time they spent in the nest. Moreover, male breast colouration significantly predicted reproductive success as quantified through egg scores. Together, our findings suggest that females may use male cheek and breast colouration, condition-dependent sexual ornaments, as key traits on which to base their mate choice decisions.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada N9B 3P4;, Email:; 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada N9B 3P4


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