Poecilia picta, a Close Relative to the Guppy, Exhibits Red Male Coloration Polymorphism: A System for Phylogenetic Comparisons

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Lindholm AK, Sandkam B, Pohl K, Breden F (2015) Poecilia picta, a Close Relative to the Guppy, Exhibits Red Male Coloration Polymorphism: A System for Phylogenetic Comparisons. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0142089. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142089

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Natural selection
Y-linked traits
Sexual selection
Evolutionary biology
Inbred strains
Trinidad and Tobago

Studies on the evolution of female preference and male color polymorphism frequently focus on single species since traits and preferences are thought to co-evolve. The guppy, Poecilia reticulata, has long been a premier model for such studies because female preferences and orange coloration are well known to covary, especially in upstream/downstream pairs of populations. However, focused single species studies lack the explanatory power of the comparative method, which requires detailed knowledge of multiple species with known evolutionary relationships. Here we describe a red color polymorphism in Poecilia picta, a close relative to guppies. We show that this polymorphism is restricted to males and is maintained in natural populations of mainland South America. Using tests of female preference we show female P. picta are not more attracted to red males, despite preferences for red/orange in closely related species, such as P. reticulata and P. parae. Male color patterns in these closely related species are different from P. picta in that they occur in discrete patches and are frequently Y chromosome-linked. P. reticulata have an almost infinite number of male patterns, while P. parae males occur in discrete morphs. We show the red male polymorphism in P. picta extends continuously throughout the body and is not a Y-linked trait despite the theoretical prediction that sexually-selected characters should often be linked to the heterogametic sex chromosome. The presence/absence of red male coloration of P. picta described here makes this an ideal system for phylogenetic comparisons that could reveal the evolutionary forces maintaining mate choice and color polymorphisms in this speciose group.

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Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
University of New South Wales
Field Museum of Natural History
National Geographic Society