Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Built-in-billboards: Male bluefin killifish signal different things with different fins

21.10.2014

They help fish swim, but fins also advertise a fish’s social standing and health. In a new study, researchers report that for the male bluefin killifish (Lucania goodei), each colorful fin presents its own messages to other fish. Researchers report their findings in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

They’re called “bluefin” killifish, but the first thing University of Illinois animal biology professor Rebecca Fuller noticed while she was snorkeling in a Florida stream was the killifishes’ differently colored fins. In addition to having reflective skin, the males sometimes had red, yellow and/or black markings on their anal, caudal (tail) and dorsal fins.


Photo by L. Brian Stauffer ; graphic by Julie McMahon

The pigment melanin contributes to the black edges (b) on the anal fin that are a sign of dominance, while pterins account for the red and yellow colors (a) on the anal fin, and signal health. Carotenoids on the caudal fin (c) indicate that the fish is eating well. Brighter, more-intense colors are associated with better mating success.

“In some of the males, the anal fin was yellow, and then some of them were red,” she said. “And the field guide showed them as blue.”

Some of the males had darker black markings on their anal fins than others, and some had bright yellow or orange tailfins.

Fuller immediately wanted to know what was driving the variation.

Previous studies suggested that melanin, the black pigment, is a badge of status among males; those with more prominent melanin markings tend to be more aggressive towards other males. In the new study, Fuller and her former graduate student Ashley Johnson, found that males with heavier melanin outlines on their anal fins dominated: They were more aggressive with other males – driving them off to gain exclusive access to females.

“Melanin is a signal to other males: ‘I’ve been winning in the past and I'm doing well and get out of my way,’” Fuller said.

The red and yellow pigments on the anal fins and the yellow tints on the tailfins have different origins, the researchers found. Carotenoids color the tailfins, but another class of pigments, called pterins, tint the anal fins either yellow or red. Yellow and red pterins are tied to differences in a single gene, Fuller said.

Carotenoids (the same pigments that give carrots and apricots their color) are known antioxidants; they gobble up highly reactive ions or molecules that can damage cells and tissues. Because killifish obtain carotenoids only by eating, researchers hypothesize that a display of color derived from carotenoids signals to potential mates that they are gazing upon a particularly robust, well-fed individual.

In the new study, Fuller and Johnson discovered that richer carotenoid coloration on the tailfin was associated with better body condition, lower parasite infection and good spawning success. This suggests that females respond positively to the brightly pigmented tailfins of potential mates, Fuller said.

Much less is known about pterins, she said. They are associated with immune function and also have antioxidant characteristics, and so also may be a badge of health.

In the new study, the researchers found that the pterin and carotenoid color patterns were independent of one another: Carotenoids colored only the tailfin, while pterins appeared only on the anal fin. Brighter pterin coloration was associated with lower parasite infection and higher spawning success, the researchers found.

“We are finding that communication is complicated in nature and that animals have evolved ways to send different messages to different receivers,” Fuller said. “In the case of bluefin killifish, multiple messages are being provided by three distinct pigments that are in three different areas of the body. Both females and males are getting these messages. Males are paying attention to the melanin, most likely, and females are paying attention to these more-colorful fins.”

The National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology and the U. of I. provided funding for this study.

Diana Yates | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://news.illinois.edu/news/14/1020fishfins_rebeccafuller.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>