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Male mating behavior and costs of sexual harassment for females in cavernicolous and extremophile populations of Atlantic mollies (Poecilia mexicana)

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The Atlantic molly Poecilia mexicana inhabits a variety of different habitat types, some of which are characterized by physicochemical stressors, such as toxic hydrogen sulfide (H2S), or the fish occur in lightless subterranean (cave) habitats. Using five different populations from surface habitats with or without H2S, and from a sulfidic and a non-sulfidic cave, I asked how extreme environmental conditions affect behavioral evolution in this species. I examined male sexual behavior, and potential costs of male sexual harassment to females, determined as the reduction of female feeding times in the presence of a harassing male. In all populations with at least one physicochemical stressor present (H2S or absence of light), a reduction in male sexual activity was recorded. While females from habitats without physicochemical stressors spent less time feeding around males, no such costs of male harassment were detected in populations from extreme habitats. It is discussed that energy limitation may be the driving force selecting for reduced male sexual activity, since fish from all habitats with presence of physicochemical stressors show a low body condition factor under natural conditions.

Affiliations: 1: Unit of Animal Ecology, Department of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 1, 14469 Potsdam, Germany; Unit of Evolutionary Biology and Systematic Zoology, Department of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany; Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, 730 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, OK 73019, USA


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