Heterospecific aggression bias towards a rarer colour morph

Topi Kasperi Lehtonen, William Geoffrey Sowersby, Bob B M Wong

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Colour polymorphisms are a striking example of phenotypic diversity, yet the sources of selection that allow different morphs to persist within populations remain poorly understood. In particular, despite the importance of aggression in mediating social dominance, few studies have considered how heterospecific aggression might contribute to the maintenance or divergence of different colour morphs. To redress this gap, we carried out a field-based study in a Nicaraguan crater lake to investigate patterns of heterospecific aggression directed by the cichlid fish, Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, towards colour polymorphic cichlids in the genus Amphilophus. We found that H. nicaraguensis was the most frequent territorial neighbour of the colour polymorphic A. sagittae. Furthermore, when manipulating territorial intrusions using models, H. nicaraguensis were more aggressive towards the gold than dark colour morph of the sympatric Amphilophus species, including A. sagittae. Such a pattern of heterospecific aggression should be costly to the gold colour morph, potentially accounting for its lower than expected frequency and, more generally, highlighting the importance of considering heterospecific aggression in the context of morph frequencies and coexistence in the wild
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1815
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • coexistence
  • colour polymorphism
  • fitness cost
  • heterospecific aggression
  • morph frequency
  • species interaction

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