Genetic and ecological characterisation of colour dimorphism in a coral reef fish

Messmer, Vanessa, Jones, Geoffrey P., van Herwerden, Lynne, and Munday, Philip L. (2005) Genetic and ecological characterisation of colour dimorphism in a coral reef fish. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 74 (2). pp. 175-183.

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Many recognised species of coral reef fishes exhibit two or more colour variants, but it is unknown whether these represent genetically identical phenotypes, genetic polymorphisms or closely related species. We tested between these alternatives for two colour morphs of the coral reef fish, Pseudochromis fuscus, from Lizard Island (Great Barrier Reef). A molecular analysis using mtDNA did not detect any genetic differentiation between co-occurring ‘yellow’ and ‘brown’ colour morphs. A previous study proposed that these two colour morphs are aggressive mimics of yellow and brown damselfishes. Here, a manipulative field experiment was used to evaluate whether the colour dimorphism in P. fuscus is a phenotypic response to the presence of two different model species. Colonies of either yellow or brown damselfish species were established on different patch reefs, and each of the two different P. fuscus morphs was then placed on the different reefs. Contrary to expectations, all yellow individuals that stayed on the reefs changed to brown, regardless of the model species. No brown individuals changed to the yellow colouration. However, P. fuscus were more likely to emigrate from, or suffer higher mortality on, patch reefs where they were not matched with similarly coloured models. Clearly, yellow and brown P. fuscus are members of a single species with sufficient phenotypic plasticity to switch from yellow to brown colouration.

Item ID: 6274
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-5133
Keywords: aggressive mimicry; mitochondrial DNA; phenotypic plasticity
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2010 02:02
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 60%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 20%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060303 Biological Adaptation @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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