Reduction of Competition Between Bisexual and Unisexual Females of Poecilia in Northeastern Mexico

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Breeding compexes of poeciliid fishes with a bisexual and two unisexual species were studied for mechanisms permitting Sympatric coexistence. The unisexuals are gynogenetic and thereby sexually dependent on the males of the bisexual species for sperm to initiate development, but inheritance is entirely maternal. Bisexual females are more abundant in headwater localities; unisexuals increase in downstream localities. Males were 10 - 18% of the total poeciliid population, regardless of the relative proportions of bisexual to unisexual females. Downstream localities were typified by greater habitat diversity, including a variety of backwater pools. The unisexuals showed a marked preference for such pools. Both field and laboratory studies showed that all three types of females as well as males preferred shaded areas with a gravel substrate. Although the four types of fish were found together, nearest neighbour data indicated that each type of female preferred its own kind. Males courted throughout the year and were indiscriminate in their choice of mates. Despite the skewed sex ratio, males were not in short supply because only a few females were sexually receptive at a given time. No significant differences existed between bisexuals and unisexuals in their relative reproductive outputs, but they were asynchronous.