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College of Science & Mathematics

Simulator a Match.com for Fish

The Biology and Computer Science departments at CSM joined together to develop a Betta Fish Simulator to study the female Betta's reaction to male displays and bubble nest size.

Under the supervision of animal behaviorist and Biological Sciences Assistant Professor, Dr. Matthew Bealor, Biology major Megan Mondelli conducted her research on mating preferences in Bettas. Previous studies have shown that females prefer brightly colored males overdark-colored males. In this species, males build bubble nests and then display to females to entice them to approach the bubble nest and mate.  Mondelli's research tested the hypothesis that, in addition to male color, the size and quality of the bubble nest could be an important factor in terms of females choosing which male to mate with.

Because live males proved difficult to test the theory, the Betta simulator was developed by Computer Science undergraduates under the guidance of their professor, Dr. Adrian Rusu.  The students met with Dr. Bealor and developed the on-line simulator that allows the researchers to easily input the desired color of males, as well as to change nest size and shape. Females, enclosed in tanks, were placed in between two laptop screens displaying the two male "digi-fish" differing in color and nest size as the females watched "TV."

The team of students then recorded which male the female Betta chose based on the amount of time she spent probing each animated male's nest.

Last summer, Mondelli presented the study at the National Meeting of the Animal Behavioral Society help at University of New Mexico with plans to present at University of Colorado in Boulder this summer.

Red fish meets digi blue fish
Red fish meets digi blue fish