Sexually dimorphic coloration has been widely suggested to play a role in sexual selection and speciation. Animal colors can originate from several different biochemical pathways, which may underlie different patterns of selection and diversification. Darters of the speciose genus Etheostoma exhibit substantial diversity in male breeding coloration. We used digital photography and image software to comprehensively quantify male coloration in the Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum) and the Orangethroat Darter (E. spectabile). Color traits differed across species, populations, and body sizes, with size differences contributing the most to individual color variation. The bluish colors were overall more strongly correlated with size than the reddish colors. Conversely, the reddish colors tended to be less correlated with size and better indicators of species and population identity. Finally, we determined that the bluish colored tissue contained a chromoprotein pigment, and that the reddish colored tissue contained a carotenoid pigment. The patterns of conservation and diversification in darter male coloration provide a guide for future investigations into their functional and evolutionary significance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Animal Science and Zoology