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Behavioural Processes



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Many animals breed in large mating aggregations, where males must rapidly discriminate between prospective mates and rivals. Selection may favour features that facilitate rapid discrimination in these aggregations. The explosively breeding Neotropical Yellow Toad, Incilius luetkenii, exhibits a rapid and dramatic colour change; males change from a cryptic brown to a conspicuous lemon yellow for their brief breeding period. Females, in contrast, remain cryptic brown throughout the year. The function of this temporary, sex-specific colour change is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that yellow colouration displayed by male I. luetkenii facilitates sex recognition during both daytime and nighttime mating aggregations. We created yellow and brown model toads and presented them to males during a breeding event. Male I. luetkenii responded significantly more intensely to brown models compared to yellow models, approaching them and making more amplexus attempts on the brown versus yellow models. This strong pattern held true regardless of ambient light intensity, making this the first study to expose a dynamic colour signal that operates during both day and night. Our results indicate that male I. luetkenii use colouration to quickly discriminate between males and females during their brief, explosive mating aggregations. Our findings suggest that the rapid, dramatic colour change of male I. luetkenii facilitates sex recognition, which could provide a significant fitness advantage to males in the form of reduced energy expenditure and reduced risk of injury by other males. Dynamic dichromatism may provide similar fitness benefits in any organisms that mate in large, competitive aggregations. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.



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