Courtship Behavior and Paternity Outcomes in the Sailfin Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Hannah Littlefield ’22

Student: Hannah Littlefield ’22
Research Mentor: Shala Hankison (OWU Department of Biological Sciences)

Sailfin mollies are a fish species that have a variety of courtship and mating behaviors that are used in an attempt to win over females and produce offspring. Trials were unable to begin this summer due to the stress levels of the fish. The goal of this project was to figure out which behaviors were the most successful by watching the fish behaviors and determining the paternity of the offspring.

The males of the fish species sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna) display a variety of courtship and mating behaviors behaviors that range from elaborate displays where the dorsal fin of the male is raised and the male chases the female to more sneaky attempts at copulation. Specimens were collected from the area surrounding the Florida State Marine Lab and were then acclimated to the lab environment at Ohio Wesleyan. Fish were too stressed to perform their normal behaviors during the Summer Science Research Program, but future directions for the research will include observing and recording courtship behaviors, as well as male-male interactions, and paternity testing to determine if certain behaviors correlate with mating success. This would allow us to know which behaviors increase fitness in this species.