American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

“Mate choice vs. mate preference: inferences about color assortative mating differ between field and lab assays of poison frog behavior”

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Yusan Yang, Simone Blomenkamp, Matthew B. Dugas, Corinne L. Richards-Zawacki, and Heike Pröhl (April 2019)

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Choice vs. preference: patterns of color assortative mating differ between field and lab assays of poison frog behavior

A red <i>Oophaga pumilio</i> male courting a blue female.<br />(Credit: Yusan Yang)
A red Oophaga pumilio male courting a blue female.
(Credit: Yusan Yang)


Co-divergence of mating traits and mate preferences can lead to behavioral isolation among lineages in early stages of speciation. However, mate preferences only limit gene flow when expressed as mate choice, and numerous factors might be more important than preferences in nature. In the extremely color polytypic strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio), female mate preferences have co-diverged with color in most allopatric populations tested. Whether these lab-assayed preferences predict mating (gene flow) in the wild remains unclear. We observed courting pairs in a natural contact zone between red and blue lineages until oviposition or courtship termination. We found color-assortative mating in a disturbed habitat with high population density, but not in a secondary forest with lower density. Our results suggest color-assortative O. pumilio mate choice in the wild, but also mating patterns that do not match those predicted by lab-assayed preferences.

<i>Oophaga pumilio</i> red morph.<br />(Credit: Yusan Yang)
Oophaga pumilio red morph.
(Credit: Yusan Yang)