Cichlids & Memes

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Thu Aug 30 2001 - 11:20:26 BST

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    Subject: Cichlids & Memes
    Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 11:20:26 +0100
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    Hi Everyone,

    Been thinking a bit more about those interesting fish.

    Lee Dugatkin's book, The Imitation Factor, gives lots of information on his
    experiments with guppies. Sexual selection occurs in guppies (females
    generally prefer orangy-red males to other colours IIRC), and his
    experiments began with trying to see whether peer pressure (effectively)
    could change that general mate choice trend. Through a number of
    experiments (which sound very ingenious and very thorough- lots of controls
    and retests), he found that females would choose drabber males over brightly
    coloured ones if they observed other females picking drab males.

    He goes on in some detail, talking about other experiments and behaviour in
    the wild of various species, and links in ideas of animal culture and memes.
    Thinking last night, it occured to me that given the extreme environmental
    changes the African Cichlids have been under (lots of isolations due to
    droughts) coupled with sexual selection for colour by females, perhaps there
    are some examples of memetic drive in species of cichlid.

    Let's say you have a rapid drought leaving a pool with only a few members of
    a species in it, and the normally perferred colours are not well represented
    by the males in the pool. Other selection characteristics- including the
    choice of other females- would come into play, and one could see how new
    colour combinations could emerge quite rapidly.

    Of course whether fish really have culture or memes is, I suspect, a matter
    of some contention.


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