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Intruder colour and light environment jointly determine how nesting male stickleback respond to simulated territorial intrusions

Abstract

Variation in male nuptial colour signals might be maintained by negative frequency-dependent selection. This can occur if males are more aggressive towards rivals with locally common colour phenotypes. To test this hypothesis, we introduced red or melanic three-dimensional printed-model males into the territories of nesting male stickleback from two optically distinct lakes with different coloured residents. Red-throated models were attacked more in the population with red males, while melanic models were attacked more in the melanic male lake. Aggression against red versus melanic models also varied across a depth gradient within each lake, implying that the local light environment also modulated the strength of negative frequency dependence acting on male nuptial colour.

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