Male fairy wrasses get feisty when a rival fluoresces
T. Gerlach et al/Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 2014
Even in the blue underwater realm, fish can see red in more ways than one. Reef fish that see glowing red patches on a rival aggressively bite and put on extra threatening displays, researchers say.
Red wavelengths from sunshine can’t penetrate water much deeper than 10 or 20 meters, failing to reach far into the realm where more than 40 small Cirrhilabrus fish species called fairy wrasses dart along reefs. But shorter, bluer wavelengths can plunge deep, where they are absorbed by the scales and some of the fin rays in both males and females of the C. solorensis fairy wrasse. The fish then fluoresce, emitting their own red light in distinctive his-and-hers swaths across their bodies.
The first behavioral test of whether a red-fluorescing fish cares about the red glow shows that the coloring sparks aggression among males, says Nico Michiels of the University of Tübingen in Germany. Males seeing the full red glory of a mock intruder