Lake Forest College News

Biology Professor Anne Houde co-authors Nature study
Her contribution adds to research on the evolution of guppies
Lake Forest, Ill. - It's good to be different, suggests a study of the evolutionary effects of color variation in fish. A study of male guppies shows that those with rare color patterns tend to escape the attentions of predators more easily. Professor of Biology Anne E. Houde co-authored the study published in the June 1 issue of Nature, a premier science journal.

Researchers removed the male guppies from pools within river systems in Trinidad, sorted them into different groupings according to their color pattern, and then restored them in such a way that certain groups were in a minority in a given pool. Less than three weeks later, they returned to the pools and found that fish with a rare color pattern had enjoyed greater survival rates.

The researchers suggest that predators may overlook rare types when hunting, perhaps because they form a 'search image' in their minds that means they are more likely to target common variants. This process, together with female preference for distinctive rare males, may explain how the population avoids becoming a uniform group of conformists.

Professor Houde helped write the grant that supported part of the study, contributed to the paper, and conducted fieldwork along with former student Tammy Hibler �05. Her own research focuses on how mate choice and sexual behavior affects the evolution of color patterns in guppies. Professor Houde joined the Lake Forest College faculty in 1993 and published the book Sex, Color, and Mate Choice in Guppies (Princeton University Press, 1997) along with several journal articles on the topic.

The Nature article entitled �Frequency-dependent survival in natural guppy populations� can be found on pages 633-636.

Other authors include Robert Olendorf, School of Integrative Biology, University of Illinois; F. Helen Rodd, Department of Zoology, University of Toronto; David Punzalan, Department of Zoology, University of Toronto; Carla Hurt, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Naos Marine Laboratory; David N. Reznick, Department of Biology, University of California; and Kimberly A. Hughes, School of Integrative Biology and Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois.


Contact Lindsay Beller

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