Sounds of male Lake Victoria cichlids vary within and between species and affect female mate preferences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Sound production in fish is widespread and occurs in several contexts, such as species recognition, mate choice, and aggression. However, there is little experimental evidence for the importance of acoustic signals in social contexts and the influence of sound on mating decisions of females. Cichlid fish are known for their bright nuptial coloration, which plays an important role in mate choice and reproductive isolation between the many species of cichlid fish in East Africa. They also produce sounds in both aggressive and courtship interactions. In this study, we show that the sounds produced by males of Lake Victoria cichlids are species specific. There is also a correlation between fish size and peak frequency of sounds across species. We did not find context-dependent differences within a species (Pundamilia nyererei) between male sounds produced during aggressive displays toward males or sexual displays toward females. We also show with playback experiments that courtship sounds influence the mate preferences of female cichlids. In combination with many studies in the literature on visual signaling, our results suggest that multimodal communication plays an important role in sexual selection in cichlids. Key words: cichlid, fish, mate choice, playback, sound, species specific.


  • Machteld Verzijden
  • Jasper van Heusden
  • Niels Bouton
  • Frans Witte
  • Care ten Cate
  • Hans Slabbekoorn
External organisations
  • External Organization - Unknown
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences


  • playback, mate choice, cichlid, fish, sound, species specific
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-555
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes