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Cichlids respond to conspecific sounds but females exhibit no phonotaxis without the presence of live males

Estramil, Natalia, Bouton, Niels, Verzijden, Machteld N., Hofker, Kees, Riebel, Katharina, Slabbekoorn, Hans
Ecology of freshwater fish 2014 v.23 no.3 pp. 305-312
Cichlidae, courtship, females, fish, males, phonotaxis, Lake Victoria
Many fish species are able to produce sounds, which are often associated with courtship. In an earlier study, we showed for the Lake Victoria cichlid Pundamilia nyererei that females prefer to associate with a male with sound over a male without sound. As a follow‐up to this earlier finding, we here investigated whether playback of conspecific sounds is sufficient to attract females in the absence of a conspecific male. However, we did not find a phonotactic response for conspecific sounds in the absence of live males, using the same playback procedure as in our previous study. An additional playback test showed that both males and females discriminated between conspecific sounds and bursts of white noise. This suggests that the sounds may be recognised but that they seem only effective as attractant in the presence of visual and/or olfactory cues. These findings underline the multimodal complexity of fish communication and courtship and call for a more integrated study of the different modalities in future studies.