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The relative influences of sexual and natural selection upon the evolution of male nuptial colouration in the brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans

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(1) Previous research suggests that the temporal cycling of nuptial colour in a population of brook stickleback, Culaea inconstans, from the Atlantic lineage mirrors that described for its close relative, the three-spine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus.(2) We report an alternative cycling of nuptial colour in a population of brook sticklebacks from Nebraska corresponding to the Mississippian lineage. Males in this population do not assume characteristic black nuptial dress during courtship activities but do become highly melanic during the final days of fry guarding.(3) We also report the first evidence of the plesiomorphic nuptial barring pattern in female brook sticklebacks.(4) The loss of the nuptial signal during courtship and its maximal expression during parental care likely reflects fluctuating relative influences of sexual and natural selection vectors and suggests that at least two pathways of colour evolution are operating within the stickleback family.(5) Geographic variability in the nuptial colour signal of the brook stickleback may have significant implications for mate recognition, should allopatric divergent populations be brought back into contact.


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