Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Alexander Cruz

Second Advisor

Barbara Demmig-Adams

Third Advisor

Victoria Hand


The humpback limia (Limia nigrofasciata) is a sexually dimorphic (with males and females with different physical features), livebearing fish from the Family Poeciliidae that is endemic to (occurs exclusively to) Lake Miragoane in Haiti. My thesis assesses the role of fish size and courtship behavior of male Limia nigrofasciata in mate choice by females of the species. Female choice of male size was evaluated by a choice test experiment, in which the female is presented with two males of different sizes placed in separate spaces on opposite sides of the female (dichotomous choice test). The amount of time each female spent near the spaces with the respective males, was recorded, averaged, and the test repeated to allow statistical evaluation. To study courtship, fish were introduced into an empty aquarium one at a time, starting with a female and subsequently adding more fish while alternating sexes, and observing courtship behaviors. Females statistically significantly preferred larger over smaller males. Courtship behaviors also played a role in breeding biology; males displayed elaborate courtship behaviors to females and dominance behaviors to other males, whereas females simply accepted or rejected males. My findings enhance the understanding of the breeding biology of Limia nigrofasciata, and can thereby inform conservation approaches.