Evolution shapes behavior, and behavior influences
the course of evolution. I am interested in how behavior and evolutionary
processes interact in various contexts including reproduction, migration
and dispersal, ecological specialization and territoriality.
Current research focusses on teleost fish of the familiy Cichlidae.
With their remarkable phenotypic diversity and variability in
social, mating and breeding behavior, these fish offer manifold
opportunities to address questions in behavioral ecology and evolutionary
biology. Even within a single lake (Lake Tanganyika in Africa),
we find mouthbrooders and substrate breeders, uniparental, biparental
and cooperative breeders, monogamous, polygynous, polyandrous
and promiscuous species, as well as various alternative reproductive
tactics such as piracy and sneaking, and - occasionally - adoption
of foreign fry. Territorial behavior likewise varies among species,
with males and/or females defending (or not) individual or joint
territories used for feeding, mating and/or breeding. Ample room
for selection arising from sexual and social competition!
One focus taxon, the genus Tropheus, occupies a narrow
trophic niche in the rocky littoral of Lake Tanganyika, Africa.
Being restricted to a particular type of habitat, species are
divided into multiple separate populations along the lake shore,
with little or no gene flow across even minor habitat barriers.
This, in consequence, enabled the different populations to evolve
specific color patterns and to produce one of the most stunning
examples of intraspecific color pattern diversity.
We investigate the effects of color pattern in the contexts of
sexual and social interactions within populations as well as reproductive
isolation among populations. We are also interested in the proximate
mechanisms behind the variation in carotenoid-based coloration,
and in the role of hybridization in creating novel color variants.
In a new project, we investigate the role of social competition
in the evolutionary loss of sexual dimorphism in these fishes.
Another new project addresses cuckoldry in a cichlid fish with biparental
brood care and high levels of extra-pair paternity (Variabilichromis
moorii). We now aim to understand why nest-holding males failed
to evolve more efficient defenses against cuckoldry.
A few recent publications:
Sefc K.M., Hermann C.M., Steinwender B, Brindl H., Zimmermann H.,
Mattersdorfer K., Postl L., Makasa L., Sturmbauer C., Koblmüller
S. 2015. Asymmetric dominance and asymmetric mate choice oppose
premating isolation after allopatric divergence. Ecology and Evolution,
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1372. pdf
Odreitz U., Sefc K.M. 2015. Territorial competition and the evolutionary
loss of sexual size dimorphism. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology,
69: 593-601. pdf
Sefc K.M., Brown A.C., Clotfelter E.D. 2014. Carotenoid-based coloration
in cichlid fishes. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part
A, 173, 42-51. pdf
Maan M.E., Sefc K.M. 2013. Colour variation in cichlid fish: proximate
mechanisms, selective pressures and evolutionary consequences. Seminars
in Cell & Developmental Biology, 24, 516-528. pdf
Sefc K.M. 2011. Mating and Parental Care in Lake Tanganyika's Cichlids.
International Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 2011, Article
ID 470875, 20 pages, 2011. doi:10.4061/2011/470875. pdf