Fish vision and sexual communication
in the kelp forest
Molly Cummings, Ph.D.
University of Texas
Wednesday, December 4, 2002
3:00 p.m. – Pacific Forum
Variation in the environment is considered to be
a major force in
evolutionary diversification of animal sensory systems and communication
traits. As species diverge in habitat use, sensory systems are predicted
to diverge to meet target detection needs. Interspecific variation in
sensory sensitivities is predicted to result in sensory biases that should
predict the direction of communication trait (e.g. courtship signal)
evolution across species. I test these predictions with a group of closely
related fishes (surfperch: Embiotocidae) living in the California kelp
forest, by incorporating measurements of species-specific optical habitat
use, photoreceptor absorbances, target reflectances, and fish behavior
into a visual detection model. The results indicate that: (1) Surfperch
sensory systems covary with microhabitat use. (2) Divergence in visual
pigment absorbances results in luminance or chromatic detection biases.
(3) Surfperch courtship traits, both physical (color patterns) and
behavioral (display), match the diverging biases of their sensory systems.
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