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Browsing by Subject "parental ability"

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  • Tukiainen, Iina (2014)
    Sexual signals, that are part of animal signalling systems, are important in attracting and competing for mates. Costly sexual signals can vary in honesty. Honest sexual signals convey truthful information about the signaller's condition and quality, reflecting reliably the direct and/or indirect benefits. Eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, which arises from an increased input of nutrients into an ecosystem by human, alters the water turbidity, especially in coastal areas, which affects visual sexual signalling in the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Boosted algal growth increases water turbidity and decreases the amount of light that penetrates the water column, and thus reduces visibility. This change in visibility can affect the honesty of sexual signals. My aim was to study if the three-spined stickleback sexual signals honestly reflect a direct benefit of mate choice, male parenting ability, when the environment changes due to increased water turbidity and if the maintenance of honesty depends on the social setting in the presence of competing males. I studied the maintenance of signal honesty by having two experimental treatments; turbid water treatment and clear water treatment. I had two males interacting in a same experimental aquarium. I showed the males a female and recorded courtship activity twice for 15 minutes. The female was then released and the male followed as well as the time it took to follow the male to the nest were recorded. I photographed the males in days one, two, three and six of the experiment to be able to observe the change in the nuptial colouration. The males were let to spawn and the egg mass was weighted for the eggs received and the eggs hatched. I found that the courtship activity tended to be reduced in turbid water. Increased water turbidity relaxed the association between female mate choice and courtship activity. Increased water turbidity had no significant effect on male red nuptial colouration or on female preference for redness but it reduced the difference between the two males in redness during courtship. Hatching success was found to be higher in clear water. The difference between the chosen and the not chosen male in hatching success tended to be reduced in turbid water. According to my results the honesty of courtship seemed to be maintained by adjusting courtship activity to reflect the lowered hatching success. On the other hand nuptial colouration was not adjusted and was not honest. The hierarchy between males was also weakened in turbid water which gave males an advantage to cheat. I showed that, as in many other species, such as in different bird and whale species, environmental change influences three-spined stickleback signalling and reproduction outcome. It remains to be seen whether sticklebacks will adopt an alternative signalling method, such as size or olfaction, or adjust the present visual signalling system to turbid conditions. Future will show if the changed signalling system can maintain sexual selection of good parental ability. More research is needed to understand the effect of turbidity on reproduction and population viability and uncover the broader influence of changes in the stickleback ecology to the Baltic Sea habitats.