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Population and Sex Differences in Colour Vision in the European Minnow Phoxinus Phoxinus (Cyprinidae)

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image of Behaviour

The abilities of males and females from two populations of the European minnow Phoxinus phoxinus to discriminate between disks of different colours were compared. Fish were trained to feed at a disk lit with 'orange-yellow' light. Their ability to discriminate this training colour from others was then tested. Fish from a stream population were more accurate than those from a lake population and females more accurate than males. We cannot be completely sure the fish discriminated on colour rather than perceived brightness, though we tried to control for the latter. There were no significant differences in the times taken to perform the tests. We suggest the different visual environments in the two habitats have selected for different visual abilities. As males and females spend most of the year in shoals together, it is argued that the difference between males and females has evolved because of the females' need to discriminate between males' sexual displays during the breeding season. The results show that a fish's sex and perhaps its population of origin should be considered in tests of visual ability.

Affiliations: 1: Zoologisches Museum der Universität Zürich, Winterthurerstr. 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland


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