visual ecology

The sensory environments individuals experience may influence the communication system of a species as a whole. Signal design, signalling activity, and the characteristics of sensory organs may change to ensure the tuning to local conditions. In this project, we focused on the effects of the environment on sexual communication in amphibians, using Lissotriton genus as a model. Optical (turbidity) and chemical characteristics (nitrate) do alter the expression of sexual signals and signalling effort. We also investigated the influence of the sensory environment on reproductive isolation between two newt species with a special emphasis on sexual UV communication.  Interspecific hybridization requires incomplete reproductive barriers. At the behavioural level, hybrids may result from faulty species recognition, i.e. the inability of individuals to discriminate between potential conspecific from heterospecific partners. Sensory ecology theory postulates that the efficiency of recognition tasks varies with the sensory environment. Hence, under poor conditions of signal transmission, individuals may fail to perform accurate species discrimination. Therefore, habitat may strongly influence the hybridization rate and the spatial distribution of hybrids. Eventually, hybridization costs may induce character displacement on the whole communication system or habitat selection itself. The link between habitat, species recognition and hybridization is investigated in the Palmate newt Lissotriton helveticus and the Smooth newt L. vulgaris. These two newts hybridize in spite large a differentiation of their male sexual ornaments, a broad sympatric zone and a relatively long divergence time. The project aims at determining the effect of hybridization on the evolution of the visual communication system (signals, photoreceptors, sexual preferences)  and habitat selection.


Related publications

  • Secondi J., Martin M., Goven D., Mège P., Sourice S., Théry M. 2017. Habitat-related variation in the plasticity of a UV sensitive photoreceptor over a small spatial scale in the palmate newt. Journal of Evolutionary Biology (in press).
  • Mège P., Ödeen A., Théry M., Picard D., Secondi J. 2016 Partial opsin sequences suggest UV-sensitive vision is widespread in Caudata. Evolutionary Biology 43, 109-118.
  • Martin M., Théry M., Rodgers G., Goven D., Sourice S., Mège P., Secondi J. 2016 UV wavelengths experienced during development affect visual sensitivity and predation efficiency of larval newts. Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0954.
  • Secondi J., Rodgers G., Bayle F., Sourice S., Théry M. 2015 Mate preference, species recognition and multimodal communication in heterogeneous environments. Evolutionary Ecology 29, 217-227.
  • Secondi J., Théry M. 2014 An ultraviolet signal generates a conflict between sexual selection and species recognition in a newt. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68, 1049-1058.
  • Secondi J., Okassa M., Sourice S., Théry M. 2014 Habitat-dependent species recognition in hybridizing newts. Evolutionary Biology 41, 71-80.
  • Secondi J., Lepetz V., Cossard G., Sourice S. 2013 Nitrate affects courting and breathing but not escape performance in adult newts. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67, 1757-1765.
  • Johanet A., Secondi J., Lemaire C. 2011 Widespread introgression does not leak into allotopy in a broad sympatric zone. Heredity 106, 962-972.
  • Secondi J., Johanet A., Pays O., Cazimajou F., Djalout Z., Lemaire C. 2010 Olfactory and visual species recognition in newts and their role in hybridization. Behaviour 147, 1693-1712.
  • Secondi J., Hinot E., Djalout Z., Sourice S., Jadas-Hecart A. 2009 Realistic nitrate concentration alters the expression of sexual traits and olfactory male attractiveness in newts. Functional Ecology 23, 800-808.
  • Johanet A., Secondi J., Pays O., Pagano A., Lode T., Lemaire C. 2009 A case of reproductive character displacement in female palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus). Comptes Rendus Biologies 332, 548-557.
  • Secondi J., Aumjaud A., Pays O., Boyer S., Montembault D., Violleau D. 2007 Water turbidity affects the development of sexual morphology in the palmate newt. Ethology 113, 711-720.
  • Haerty W., Gentilhomme E., Secondi J. 2007 Female preference for a male sexual trait uncorrelated with male body size in the Palmate newt (Triturus helveticus). Behaviour 144, 797-814.
  • Secondi J., Haerty W., Lode T. 2005 Female attraction to conspecific chemical cues in the palmate newt Triturus helveticus. Ethology 111, 726-735.