University of Oulu

Lehtonen, T. K., Candolin, U., & Wong, B. B. M. (2023). Environmental variation promotes colour morph-specific behavioural differences in a cichlid fish. In Animal Behaviour (Vol. 197, pp. 123–130). Elsevier BV.

Environmental variation promotes colour morph-specific behavioural differences in a cichlid fish

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Author: Lehtonen, Topi K.1,2,3,4; Candolin, Ulrika2; Wong, Bob B.M.1
Organizations: 1School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
2Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Natural Resources Institute Finland, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-08-09


Colour polymorphisms are among the most striking examples of intraspecific variation. If vulnerability in a given habitat depends on body colour, heterogeneity in the environment may drive behavioural differences between differently coloured individuals. We tested this prediction in a colour-polymorphic fish species, the red devil, Amphilophus labiatus. In Amphilophus cichlids, ‘dark’ and ‘gold’ morphs have previously been linked to differences in morphology, aggressive behaviour and mate choice, but it is unknown whether the morphs also differ in other key behaviours, or whether any such differences are sensitive to environmental factors. By testing activity, boldness and exploration, our laboratory experiment provided moderate evidence for an environmental variable, substrate type, having colour morph-specific effects on behaviour: dark morph red devils explored their environment more extensively when the environmental background (substrate) was dark brown than when it was light coloured, whereas gold morph individuals did not differ in their behaviour in relation to substrate colour. These results show that environmentally driven behavioural differences may be context dependent and have a role in maintaining colour morph-specific behavioural strategies. Hence, the evolution of morphological traits, such as colour morphs, cannot be fully understood without considering the behavioural phenotypes that have coevolved with them in interaction with the environment.

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Series: Animal behaviour
ISSN: 0003-3472
ISSN-E: 1095-8282
ISSN-L: 0003-3472
Volume: 197
Pages: 123 - 130
DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2023.01.005
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Financial support was provided by The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and School of Biological Sciences at Monash University.
Dataset Reference: Data are available at the Harvard Dataverse:
Copyright information: © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (