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Abstract

), which is among the most intensively-studied model vertebrates in evolution, ecology, and behaviour. In contrast, the evolution and ecology of colour in male stickleback has received considerable attention. One aspect of female colouration that is lacking previous research is non-ornamental body colour. Non-ornamental colour can play defensive and social roles, and indicate other aspects of female stickleback ecology. To remedy this knowledge gap, we measured the colour and brightness of one dorsal and one ventral lateral area on female stickleback from nine lake populations on Vancouver Island. We found that lake populations varied in overall colour brightness and dorso-ventral contrast. In addition, we found that female brightness increased with lake size, indicating potential ecological drivers of these colour differences. Our results demonstrate that there is substantial scope for future research on female colour diversification, which has been overlooked because past researchers focused on dramatic male nuptial colours.

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