AB 9:271-277 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/ab00257

Colour differentiation in a coral reef fish throughout ontogeny: habitat background and flexibility

Bruno Frédérich1, Suzanne C. Mills2, Mathieu Denoël3, Eric Parmentier1, Christophe Brié4, Raphael Santos5, Viliame Pita Waqalevu6, David Lecchini7,*

1Laboratoire de Morphologie fonctionnelle et évolutive, Institut de Chimie (B6c), Université de Liège, 4000 Liège, Belgium
2Unité mixte de recherche (UMR) 5244 CNRS-EPHE-UPVD, Université de Perpignan, 66860 Perpignan, France
3Laboratory of Fish and Amphibian Ethology, Behavioural Biology Unit, Université de Liège, 4000 Liège, Belgium
4Tropical Fish Tahiti, 98745 Rangiroa, French Polynesia
5Unité de service et de recherche (USR) 3278 CNRS-EPHE, CRIOBE, 98729 Moorea, French Polynesia
6Institute of Marine Resources, Aquaculture Laboratory, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji
7Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Centre IRD Noumea, UR 227 CoReUs, 98848 Noumea, New Caledonia
**Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Colour polymorphism is widespread in animals but, in contrast to other types of polymorphism, has been little explored during ontogeny. Among coral reef fish, the surge damselfish Chrysiptera leucopoma settles in the larval stage as a yellow morph, whereas 2 colour morphs (yellow and brown) are apparent in adults at Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia. To understand this dimorphism, we tested, under controlled conditions, the hypotheses that: (1) environmental cues (habitat background and conspecific density) play important roles in morph differentiation during ontogeny and (2) morph colouration is reversible. Our first experiment showed that a dark habitat background induced the formation of the brown morph, while C. leucopoma larvae kept their yellow morph when placed in aquaria with a bright habitat background. Colour change from yellow to brown also occurred within the bright habitat, but only at high conspecific densities. Our second experiment showed that colour change was reversible within 15 d post-settlement, but not at the adult stage. Overall, our results highlighted that the studied polymorphism may be environmentally induced and reversible during the first post-settlement days of this coral reef fish.


KEY WORDS: Colour morph · Chrysiptera leucopoma · Environmental factors


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Cite this article as: Frédérich B, Mills SC, Denoël M, Parmentier E and others (2010) Colour differentiation in a coral reef fish throughout ontogeny: habitat background and flexibility. Aquat Biol 9:271-277

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