Seeing orange: prawns tap into a pre-existing sensory bias of the Trinidadian guppy

Alexandra R. De Serrano , Cameron J. Weadick , Anna C. Price , F. Helen Rodd


Sensory bias, a predisposition towards certain signals, has been implicated in the origin of mate preferences in some species. A risk associated with these biases is that they can be co-opted by predators as sensory lures. Here we propose that the orange spots on the brown pincers of a diurnal, predatory species of prawn function as lures for Trinidadian guppies, which have a sensory bias for orange. We exposed female guppies to (i) a life-like model of this Trinidadian prawn with orange, green or no spots on the pincers or (ii) a live, novel (non-Trinidadian) crustacean (crayfish), also with spotted pincers. First, we provide evidence that guppies sympatric with the prawn recognized our model as a potential predator. Next, we found that guppies spent more time in the dangerous head region of the model prawn with orange-spotted pincers compared with unspotted pincers. Finally, we show that allopatric, but not sympatric, guppies spent more time in the vicinity of the head of a live crayfish when orange spots were added to its pincers than when brown spots were added. Our results suggest that the orange spots on prawn pincers can act as a sensory lure.

  • Received March 19, 2012.
  • Accepted April 25, 2012.
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