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The get-fresh fish flesh fest
Female guppies are so sick of being pestered by their sex-crazed male counterparts, they often prefer to take their chances in dangerous predator-filled waters. Another Saturday night in Temple Bar then. Also: our columnist is mobbed by Boss-obsessed anoraks.
Eamonn McCann, 04 Jul 2006
Guppies. You couldn’t be up to them.
As most people know, the guppy is a small member (although ‘small member’ may not be the apt phrase in this instance) of the Poecilidae family, native to South America and the Caribbean. In Trinidad they are colloquially known as “millions” on account of their marvellous profusion in the aquamarine waters of the paradisal islands.
They are also the world’s most popular aquarium fish, their attractiveness hugely enhanced by the winsome performance of the lovable Flounder in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
What Disney didn’t tell us is that they are the divils for sex. The males, anyway. Your male guppy is so sexed-up with pulsing desire, females risk their lives to escape their pestering attention. A bit like dances in Inisowen in the 1960s.
Anyway. In a paper just published in The American Naturalist, Dr Darren Croft and a highly-trained research team from the University of Leeds report on an extended field-trip to the rainforests of Trinidad, where they found that female guppies tend to swim in habitats that contain many predators but few males. (I understand that Dr. Croft, 28, and his team had to spend months hanging out on the islets and inlets of palm-fringed atolls and coves, scuba-diving into sunlight refracted as shattered sapphire through gently rippled waters, amid the iridian swarm of the molluscs and bivalves, urchins and anemones – and guppies, too – to assemble the data to bring back to Yorkshire for study.)
Dr. Croft – PhD subject: ‘The shoaling behaviour of tropical fish’ – had posed the question: “Why do female guppies risk their lives in this way?’ His assiduous investigations have now supplied the answer: “Male guppies spend most of their time making sexual displays to females. But if his display doesn’t impress her, males will attempt to sneak a mating with her when she is not looking,” he is quoted in The American Naturalist.
“The bright colour patterns which the males use to attract females also attract the attention of predators. The female guppies use this to their advantage.”