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Abstract

Seasonal and ephemeral color patterns in the kelp bass, Paralabrax clathratus, were studied on Santa Catalina Island, California from April 2000 to September 2002. Adults were monochromatic for part of the year (calico phase) and sexually dichromatic from April to October, with most adult males adopting bright orange snouts (OS phase). The seasonal occurrence of the OS phase in males overlapped with the spawning season, and the color was limited to ripe males. The OS phase in ripe males may function as a signal of sexual identity and sexual readiness to females. Both males and females exhibited distinct color patterns during courtship and spawning periods. During these periods, males were charcoal colored with dark black bars overlaying white spots (checkered phase), and females were often black with no visible spots (dark phase). Color patterns displayed by adults during spawning activities may facilitate mate signaling and the formation of spawning groups. Specific color patterns were also observed in relation to habitat and aggressive behaviors.

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