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The Ethological Significance of the Sword-Tail in Xiphophor Us Hellerii (Haekel)

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From observations of free-swimming and narcotised fish and by the use of preference experiments it has been shown that the sword-tail of the male acts as an important visual stimulus for the release of aggressive behaviour in other males but has no significance to the female. Mature males show a preference for large body size in a sexual partner and may begin the courtship behaviour pattern with other fish of either sex unless the visual stimulus of the sword-tail or aggressive actions are perceived. The response of the female to the "vent-butting" stage of the male in the courtship movements acts to release either the sexual or the aggressive display pattern in the courting male. The sexual behaviour of the female consists of a decrease in avoidance activity which appears to be related to the reproductive cycle and no-co-operation by the female is required for copulation to occur. Certain other observations are described and their possible significance is discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, South Africa


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