Reflectance spectra from free-swimming sticklebacks (Gasterosteus): Social context and eye-jaw contrast

Victor N. Rush, Jeffrey S. Mckinnon, Michael A. Auney, R. Craig Sargent

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The color patterns of many organisms change rapidly with social context but such dynamic signals have been little studied with current methods. In this .study we applied objective spectrophotometry techniques to the color displays of unrestrained male threespine sticklebacks, to assess the influence of social context on coloration. Analyzing our data with a color space model based on stickleback visual physiology, we found that unrestrained males enhanced saturation of both their blue eye and red jaw color in response to the presence of a mature male or female conspecilic. Divergence between the eye and the jaw lead to enhanced contrast, likely increasing conspicuousncss. We found little rclalionship bclwccn measures of color saturation and condition, but the color of males in better condition varied more with social context. This study is the first to evaluate contrast between stickleback color pattern elements quantitatively and the lirsl in which reflectance spectra were collected from free-swimming fish. The methods presented here could be used in future studies of sticklebacks and could potentially be adapted to other animals.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTinbergen's Legacy in Behaviour
Subtitle of host publicationSixty Years of Landmark Stickleback Papers
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Jan 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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