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Aspects of Sexual Discrimination By Female Siamese Fighting Fish (Bet Ta Splendens Regan)

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I. The responses of female Betta splendens to various stimuli presented behind a transparent partition were recorded. The stimuli comprised live male and female B. splendens, eight motionless model B. splendens, and an empty-tank control. The models consisted of four pairs, one member of which had long male-like fins and raised opercula, and the other, short female-like fins and lowered opercula. The first pair had lifelike colouring; the other three pairs had "aggressive", "submissive", and "reproductive" colourings, respectively. 2. The stimuli and experimental procedures used were the same as those used in an earlier study of sexual discrimination by male B. splendens. 3. The responses to live males and females differed primarily in the amounts of agonistic behaviour shown to each, and in the colour patterns adopted. 4. The colour pattern "Displaying" was never shown to live males, and "Reproductive" was shown only rarely to live females. 5. A Principal Components Analysis was used to analyse the data, and its applicability and accuracy discussed. 6. Four main possible motivational systems were suggested influencing a female's response to a conspecific. These were similar to systems suggested for males. They were: (i) a close display response elicited by a female conspecific; (ii) a mate-or-flee response to a male conspecific (affecting primarily the colour pattern adopted by the female) ; (iii) an overt-aggression response most often elicited by a female conspecific; and (iv) a "curiosity" response indicating interest in a stimulus. 7. The females grouped the live female and live male separately from each other and from all other stimuli. The control was also separated from the model stimuli, which were treated as a single group except for the lifelike and reproductive female models, which were slightly separated from the rest. 8. Females appear to distinguish three classes of conspecific: "displaying female"; "courting male"; and "other". 9. There was some indication that females can discriminate the sex of conspecifics using only fin length and body pattern cues, but, unlike the males, it appears likely that these cues are not the primary ones.

Affiliations: 1: (School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, N.S.W., Australia, Depart-ment of Zoology, University of Toronto, Ont., Canada


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