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Behavior and Phylogeny of Fishes of the Genus Colisa and the Family Belontiidae

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Courtship and reproductive behaviors of the four species of Colisa were studied over a 10-year period. Many of the behaviors studied are suitable for supporting statements on the phylogenetic relationships of the group and for elucidating the probable course of behavioral evolution in the subfamily Trichogasterinae. More than half of the traits studied exhibit interspecific variation. C. labiosa and C. fasciata (the two largest species) are most similar in behavioral traits and color patterns, but differ in enough features that they cannot be clumped as a well-defined subgroup. The two smaller species (C. lalia and C. chuna) are highly specialized in several courtship and parental care patterns. C. lalia builds a complex, algae-filled nest, while C. chuna forms its eggs into a ball-like cluster that may be attached to plants or other emergent structures. The tempo and form of behaviors differ between the larger and smaller species, probably because of the contraints imposed by body size and shape rather than because of any unique phylogenetic constraint. Several highly-specialized behaviors (courtship butting, rubbing, vegetation in nests, egg-cluster formation, etc.) have arisen in the genera Colisa and Trichogaster, and at least one trait (vegetation incorporated in bubble nest) has probably appeared independently in both genera. Body shape and movement patterns appear to be the dominant themes in sex recognition in the genus Trichogaster whereas color patterns are much more important sexual cues in Colisa spp. We believe that selection may have operated on different modes of social information transfer in the two diverging Trichogasterine lines to produce the distinctive patterns presently found between the genera. Finally, we argue briefly in support of LIEM's hypothesis that the smaller-bodied Betta-like forms with demersal eggs represent a primitive condition in the family Belontiidae.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, U.S.A.


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