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Sunday, December 14, 2014

When Does Maintaining A Strain Become Redundant?

When Does Maintaining A Strain Become Redundant?

© Alan S. Bias
Permission granted for nonprofit reproduction or duplication of photos and text with proper credit for learning purposes only.
 December 14, 2014

Heterozygous Stoerzbach (s) Asian Blau (Ab) Vienna Lowersword

At some point in time many serious Domestic Guppy breeders are faced with a similar situation presented in the title of this article. No, I'm not talking about the two often asked questions leading to tank creep; "do I have too many strains or not enough tanks?"  Yet if you can satisfactorily answer the question for yourself in regards to what follows, the answer may lend a hand in solving both of the prior questions for you as a breeder.  In turn it can strengthen your breeding program and help achieve desired results.  To start you must first have a definition of what is a breeding strain and what is a breeding line within your strain.

You should view a strain as a collection of genetic traits in a long-term breeding project with a set specific result.  In general a breeding strain can be defined as a related group of genetics that breed true for desired traits.  This result can be as simple as a grey bodied Half Black Red Delta tail guppy. Breeding lines within this strain can be selected and maintained for various individual traits dealing with; size, longevity, pattern, color density / intensity, dorsal / caudal shape, fecundity to name a few.  In established practice found within the strain are multiple breeding lines for short term breeding projects which focus on maintenance, improvement or incorporation of additional genetic traits through out-cross.

But what happens when you seek to broaden your personal definition of a strain by the addition of additional sex-link or autosomal traits?  Does this in turn dictate the need for maintenance of isolated breeding lines or creation of new independent strains?  Show stanadards and personal preference aside, if you visit or follow enough breeding programs of successful breeders one thing becomes apparent.  That being, they tend to work with compatible traits.  Traits that can be used across strains allowing a breeder to "outcross from within" their own breeding's.

This is a common concept across breeds in all forms of pedigree livestock breeding.  Often the primary limitation being the size of your breeding program; or more accurately the total number of like individuals you maintain within your breeding program.  It is not uncommon for larger breeding programs to remain "closed" for many generations.  They have the population numbers to do so, or work closely with others having similar goals as "co-operator" breeding programs.  The rare exception of addition of outside genetics only arising when:  1.  A desired trait cannot be identified within your stocks,  2.  Outside addition will speed up desired results,  3.  Level of in-breeding co-efficient has reached a point to be of concern, as evidenced by a reduction in performance.

In my own breeding program the addition of outside genetics rarely occurs, and is limited to addition of traits not already found from within.  For each fixed strain, I generally maintain only two breeding lines. The first consists of a blond * blond breeding and the second a grey * blond/grey breeding.  This should not be taken to mean I only retain offspring from two breeding's per linear generation. As is often the case I set up multiple breeding groups of each line per generation at 3-5 months of age.  As the individuals mature continued culling will further identify those fish that truly excel in specific traits.  Depending upon the breeding group I may retain fry only from initial drops if breeder development is marginal, and prefer to retain litters from those that excel for as long as the breeding groups remains intact.

Individuals that excel are often removed from a particular breeding group and used in back-cross to F1/F2/F3 sons and daughters.  They may even be bred to F1/F2/F3 nieces and nephews.  The thing to keep in mind is that in all instances, the results of these breeding's are simply considered "breeding lines within the parent strain."

In general my Vienna Lowersword strain encompasses many traits; Blond (b), Metal (Mg), Golden (gg), Asian Blau (Ab), Emerald (VEG), Purple Body Mutation (Pb), Albino (a), Tigrinus (Ti), Zebrinus (Ze), Stoerzbach (s), Viridis (Vir), Moscow Blau Additional Gene (MBAG), Japan Blue (JB), Lazuli (Lz), sex-linked yellow & red color pigment, blue peduncle, many of O. Winge's identified color / pattern traits, and several others for autosomal
fragmentary snakeskin, irridophore base.  Part of the numerous phenotypical expression resulting from combinations of the foregoing traits are shown below.

In general, my breeding records are very simplistic and would be considered non-existent by some breeders standards.  I breed by eye and base my selection near exclusively on observations of current individuals being considered for progression of the strain and knowledge of individual sex-link, autosomal and other heritable traits.  I record unique or specific traits  in sires or dams selected for breeding.  Finding that I rarely, if ever, reference recorded records.  The exception being when I am trying to fix or analyze a trait based on ratios.  Generally, the tag on my tanks is identical to what is recorded in my log.  In example:  558 LS A F3 12.14.14 (litter #, strain, line, generation, date of birth).  This allows me to backtrack successes and failures with minimal effort and little time keeping records.

So herein lies my personal dilemma.  One that has been on my mind for over a year.  For the past 5 years I have been maintaining my Bias Vienna Lowersword strain in two distinct breedings.  Not quite two distinct strains, but more akin to "Super Lines" within the strain. Strain 1** consisting of the genetic base I started 15 years ago while still in Montana.  After relocating to West Virginia six years ago, Strain 1 was restarted from a single female and several males re-obtained from Virginia breeder Gabriel Niculesu.  Having had sent Gabriel a box of fish just before moving. Strain 2 consisting of a blended genetic base of Strain 1 and stocks of my late Swordtail breeder friend Dick Johnson.  The basis of Strain 2 was created and obtained from my late Swordtail breeder friend Tom Harrell, also when I relocated 6 years ago.  Pass your stocks around, you never know when you will need them back...

Over the past 5 years I have routinely outcrossed Strain 2 males to Strain 1 females, but never the reciprocal.  In reality, for very little reason.  Strain one is both X and Y-link sex-linked for yellow color pigment in finnage.  It has no sex-linkage for red color pigment.  Strain 2 still has a single sex-link for red color pigment that routinely crosses back and forth from  X to Y linkage.  Normally on a single sex-link it is not always visible, as yellow color pigment is epistatic to red.  

The red sex-link is easy to select against as males Y-link for red  and X-link for yellow are orange.  However, being color-tail neutral, when females posses a single X-link for red they remain hidden in the breeding pool. The latter is very hard to irradiate in a breeding program based on propagation of yellow finnage.  So, in the end I decided to maintain both gene pools as distinct entities; Strains 1 & 2.

After five years both strains have nearly identical potential in phenotypical output, less the occasional orange dorsal in males.  This in part as I have been incorporating additional outside traits into each strain and making similar selections for existing traits.  End result? Two strains of near identical capabilities, each with individual strengths and weaknesses, taking up 60+ tanks.  Both strains were so convergent, I was beginning to spend more time and resources trying to maintain the two strains verses making improvements to either. 

So this morning after water changes I accomplished in quick order what I had been procrastinating about for over a year.  I drew a line in my notebook and made a note stating,  "Ceased Concept of Strain 1 and Strain 2 12.14.14."  A hard choice to make, but easy to act upon once made.  Old labels came off the tanks, and were replaced with new only indicating breeding line A or B.  In the long-term it will allow me to concentrate on a single strain based solely on observation and breeding results, not dual maintenance and retention of often inferior results in one or the other strain.  In the short-term it allowed for the immediate culling of inferior individuals, elimination or combing of duplicate existing breeding groups.

Going forward, my Lowersword strain will again mimic that of my other Doublesword and Topsword strains.  Now it is a matter of only tracking multiple Line A blond * blond and Line B grey * grey/blond breeding's.  Selection and retention can again be based on observation and results.  In my case the breeding of two similar strains had become redundant.  To the point of becoming detrimental to both strains...

1st Place, Kettering England 10.9.14 (Photo Courtesy Joe Mason)

Further Reading
or IFGA Bulletin, Oct., 2011; Creating a Strain of Vienna Emerald Swords.


Keep your records simple and concise.  Record inputs for selection of traits found in your sires and dams.  When possible avoid breeding "paper fish", instead base your culling and breeding's on observation and results.  Unless you are working with a new trait and require concise ratios, you may find it serves little purpose in recording every minute detail...


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Phenotypical Expressions Within My Panda Moscow Strain

Phenotypical Expressions Within My Panda Moscow Strain

© Alan S. Bias 2014
Permission granted for nonprofit reproduction or duplication of photos and text with proper credit for learning purposes only.

For nearly 15 years I have maintained Panda Moscow's.  My current strain being about 5 years old and of no relation to prior breeding's.  I find it much more rewarding to create my own strain vs. obtaining an existing from another breeders.  It is comprised of the basic Moscow (Mw) + Pink (Pk) traits with additional autosomal traits for Purple Body Mutation (Pb), Golden "IFGA Bronze" (gg), Blond "IFGA Gold" (bb), Metal Gold (Mg), Zebrinus (Ze) and Snakeskin Body (Ssb).

One of my favorite expressions is this type male with a very "clean white" anterior comprised of highly reflective leucophores.  Like most Panda, he is highly motile for color in both anterior shoulders and posterior peduncle.  What makes him stand out from other males with white shoulders is a near complete lack of  blue iridophores & Metal Gold (Mg) in the shoulders.  Also, notice he lacks the expected black eyes and melanophore expression around his eyes.

Golden Panda take the term "motile" to the extreme.  At times when flashing can appear nearly as dark and solid colored as those males lacking the trait.  With the addition of Mg they are quite reflective.  One interesting fact about golden, at least in my experience, is I have yet to produce a male that does not also express Ze or Ssb.  Yet, based on outcross, I do not believe  gg and either Ze or Ssb are linked in complex.  Upon outcross of Panda males both Y-link Ssb & Y-link Mw are always passed to F1 sons.  With homzgyous gg panda, the co-expression of gg + Ze / Ssb is most visible at the onset of sexual-maturity, but less prevalent at physical maturity when color & pattern are at their peak.

There is a direct correlation in overall appearance of Panda males based on:  1.  Additional infusion of sex-linked melanophores,  2.  Presence of  non-motile "Midnight Gene",  3. Hierarchical status of individual male(s) in the pecking order.  Like most strains, Panda Moscow, are no different in that the most dominant or several top dominant males are always the most intensely colored.

While I have always enjoyed working with Moscow genetics, one of the benefits I find in raising Panda Moscow, as compared to their delta counterparts, is the epistatic relationship between Mw and Pk resulting in roundtails.  This is easily strengthened with the addition of true roundtail genetics to perfect the caudal shape if your wish.  Lacking a large broadtail there is no fin nipping or resulting bacterial disease issues.  Males remain virile and active for a year and a half or more, similar to my perennial favorite Swordtail strains.  Like most long-lived strains, they are also much slower growing and take their time to fully mature.  So, it is often wise to refrains from selecting your breeders at too early and age.

If you pay attention to the dorsal's and caudal's in the examples I have presented you will notice several configurations of each.  Like most of my strains I keep the general makeup very fluid in nature to preserve some diversity of type.  Saves alot of time and tank space that would otherwise be needed to decode the various linkages associated with each.  By taking this route I have little need in determining which traits are simply in combination with others and those which are linked in unbreakable complexes.

Next time your looking for something  a little different give often overlooked  Panda Moscow a try.

For those of you interested in learning more about the genetics of the Panda Moscow phenotype, you may wish to read:


Many thanks to those IFGA club members and volunteers
 who donated their time  to put on 2014 shows
 and make for a successful show year.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

New X-link Vienna Double Sword Strain

I have been working up a new X-linked Vienna Double Sword (DS) strain since last summer.  A primary goal being to establish a new strain with thicker swords in matching yellow caudal and dorsal that will compete under IFGA auspices.  Starting the strain with my Vienna Lower Sword (LS) males and imported Lazuli Double Sword (DS) females, X-linked for Double Sword trait, from Benson Liu.  So all Y-links and male autosomal inputs for color and pattern derive solely from LS males.  In the F1 initial X-links and female autosomal inputs for color and pattern derive from the imported DS females.  As I expected F1 phenotype pretty much resembled the various Vienna type found in my LS strain, retaining a percentage of Asian Blau (Ab) and Purple Body Mutation (Pb).  This came about by utilizing Asian Blau LS foundation sires with Pb in genotype.  Benson's Lazuli DS strain also incorporates Pb, so this allowed for a high percentage of Pb in the F1.

Unlike crosses involving my Vienna LS and European DS, all F1 offspring were DS.  In the F2 they again segregated out into an equal ratio of 50/50.  Thus, indicating foundation females were homozygous for X-link DS trait.

In many F1 males there was a noticeable reduction in the amount of autosomal spotting and fragmentary snakeskin traits I have concentrated in my LS. But overall, barring expressed at a high rate as both parental strains possessed in makeup.  Many grey body F1 males had an increase in large black melanophore spotting as seen in the following male.

F1 Bias Vienna LS * Benson Liu Lazuli DS

Having imported several grey and blond DS strains from Benson, I prior produced offspring from each to get a feel for the genetic makeup of the females.  Initially finding them to have very strong X-link for DS, and what seemed to be weaker X-link for color & pattern, minimal Metal Gold (Mg) and unknown's for autosomal traits.

Based on initial breeding I suspected that females were commonly used across the various Asian DS strains I had obtained; Vienna, Schimmelpennig Platinum and Lazuli.  With many offspring showing only white caudal / dorsal color or lacking color.  The latter seeming too be common in many Asian Swordtail strains.

Rather than quickly progressing several generations into F2-3-4 and beyond with my new cross and re-enforcing these weak traits for coloration in finnage, I decided to stick with some lateral breedings in the F2-3.  This in attempt to see what I could recombine from foundation sire X & Y-links, foundation dam X-links and autosomal traits of both.

This approach has paid off rather handsomely in males with strong expression of yellow finnage.  Rather surprisingly, in production of some unique body colors & patterns in both LS and DS. Especially those incorporating Purple Body Mutation (Pb) in a rather pleasing lavender coloration.  What follows are some F2-3 DS youngsters just starting to color up.  Their LS siblings are expressing similarly.

F2 Vienna DS w/Pb, Viridis (Vir), Mg and small anterior spotting.  The larger male will be a LS.
F2 Vienna DS w/Pb, Viridis (Vir), Mg and X-link Saddleback on left.
F2 Vienna DS w/Pb, Viridis (Vir), Mg and larger spotting.
F2 Vienna DS w/Pb, Viridis (Vir), Mg and X-link Saddleback.
F2 Vienna DS w/Pb, Viridis (Vir), Mg and larger posterior spotting and anterior spotting well into the abdomen.

You will notice in the two above males the one on the left possesses spotting, while the one on the right possesses a solid black shoulder stripe.  He does not possess saddleback as does the male below.  But the male with saddleback does express anterior spotting in the middle-lower adomen.  While some of these differences in melanophore pattern are the result of sex-linkage, others are the result of autosomal inputs or even transposons, thus not readily fixed to type.  

Needless to say, I'm already clearing tank space in anticipation of several breeding groups involving these newly expressed traits.  While creation of solid pattern guppies has its appeal with many breeders, for me the reward is in utilizing the seven natural colors found in wild Guppies to recreate the wonderful kaleidoscope of color found in last nights firework display...


The 2014 Show Season is well under way around the world
with various breed associations.  Show your support and promote
 your breeding program with some entries.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Identification and Conservation of Traits by Domestic Breeders

Identification and Conservation of Traits by Domestic Breeders

Lazuli Wild-Type w/X-link yellow finnage and ocular spotting
As breeders of domestic strains or captive wild populations we should be concerned with traits.  Focusing on traits will allow a breeder to conserve existing or produce unique phenotypes.

Based on current best research all guppies are still Peocilia reticulata.  For the most part, researchers in good standing have settled on; Peocilia reticulata reticulata, Peocilia reticulata cumana, Peocilia reticulata wingei, Peocilia reticulata obscura.   As breeders, when describing phenotypical variants as "morphs" it should be remembered we are simply dealing with traits originating in genotype of wild stocks.

In the wild and under domestication trait selection, retention and more importantly expression are driven by multiple factors.  Including but not limited to; sexual selection, predation, food resources, size of stream or impoundment, and lighting to name a few.  Phenoytpes are in turn the result of ratios based on expressed &/or unexpressed traits as a result of linkage and dominance.  This based on number of matings, births and deaths.  Resulting in expression of colors & pattern, finnage and body type.  All based on traits.

Blond Ginga Sulphureus DS w/Purple Body Mutation (Pb) and Z-bar
Much emphasis by breeders and researchers is routinely placed on creation of names for specific genes or mutations that produce phenotype, instead of identification of the driving traits.  Those found in unlinked combination or locked in linked complex to express phenotype.  Individual traits can be limited to a variant, isolated populations, specific members of a mixed population, or a particular locale.   

Many traits are conserved across species. All traits found in wild guppies can easily cross defined lines of demarcation given the right circumstances and be bred back to type or used to produce new phenotype.  Traits are not limited to body, finnage, color and pattern.  They also impact longevity, aggression, size, hardiness, and fecundity.  Rare or unexpressed traits found in wild genotype can hinder survival under natural conditions.  Positive selection for any particular trait will have negative impact on another.  The result is often not physically visible.  You cannot add to one area without taking away from another.  There is an old saying in livestock breeding;  you start with 100% and you end with 100%.  All we do as breeders is reshuffle the deck.

Lazuli Wild-Type w/X-link yellow & Y-link for red finnage, ocular spotting,
Purple Body Mutation (Pb), and MBAG

Under domestication we have the luxury of producing unique phenotypes based on traits in a controlled environment.  Domestic Guppies are a composite of variants and their genotype.  They are the result of identification and combinations of specific, and often rare or unexpressed traits in unnatural combinations.

While the maintenance of captive wild populations or unique domestic strains should be of primary emphasis to breeders, it should not be an encumbrance.  You can easily view the stocks within your fishroom and fellow breeders as gene banks.  A collection of traits for infusion into your stocks when needed.  Knowledge of genetic traits in turn will allow you to breed back to type or create new.

Show season is well underway with various guppy clubs around the world.
  Support the efforts of your fellow breeders by sending some entries
 to promote your breeding program

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Never Ending Endler debate; A species or not?

The Never Ending Endler debate;  A species or not?

© Alan S. Bias
Permission granted for nonprofit reproduction or duplication of photos and text with proper credit for learning purposes only.

February 6, 2014

I have just finished reading Klee (2013), Endler’s Guppy:  A Species Or Not A Species?for the third, or is it fourth time?  This in conjunction with quick re-reads of several publications by Breden, Poeser and Schories.  While Klee does not come forth in outright “support” of Schories (2009) & Poeser (2005) in proclaiming P. wingei a distinct species, it seems he is leaning in that direction.

The author does a well in laying out the processes used in naming a new species.  Even more so in explaining the various scientific schools of thought, technology and terminology quoted for reader understanding.  In the end he wisely shy’s away from proclaiming P. wingei a distinct species citing lack of current consensus among scientists themselves.  What other option did he have?

It seems modern technology will further create schism between the divergent schools of thought found within the scientific community for some time to come.  Traditional criteria for classification of variant populations as new species within a genus are being ignored in favor of micro classifications under the auspices of cryptic species complex.  In the past it was often considered paramount speciation be set at the largest group capable of viable reproduction.  Localized differences identified as sub-species.  Should science allow this to fall by the wayside?

Klee relies heavily on Schories (2009), who in turn is supportive of Poeser (2005).  Schories does well in making visible morphological and mitochondrial (mtDNA) distinction between variant populations of P. reticulata caroni and P. reticulata obscura, in her effort at describing the latter as a distinct species.  Supportive of Poeser’s classification of P. reticulata wingei as a distinct species adds further preponderance of weight.  Poeser on the other hand relies to a lesser degree on mtDNA and favors morphological evidence in proclaiming P. reticulata wingei as a distinct species.  Schories in turn relies on mtDNA distinction in separating wingei as a distinct tree in phylogeny.  In her comparison between other related species a similar range of genetic difference is revealed in support of mtDNA based evidence of speciation.

Likely the most problematic criteria being used to define new species within a phylogenic tree is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).  While there is little doubt that the use of molecular genetics to create phylogenetic trees is of long-term value in showing relationship, can mtDNA alone be used to define a species and signify cryptic speciation?  The primary argument most seen being mutation within maternally passed mtDNA is less frequent than DNA  and is confined for the most part within itself through self-replication.  Thus, mtDNA is more static in nature as compared to DNA, and less subject to “pollutants” from various sources.

Phylogenetic result in itself is often a very “assumptive” process.  When results are postulated solely from single sided mtDNA evidence, it would seem a large part of the story is being ignored.  Many ancient native cultures around the world are based on maternal lineage.    Domestic livestock breeding is often tracked within maternal family groups in a breed.  While concentrating mtDNA, neither situation results in rash proclamation of new species, only sub-populations and breeds.  Maternal lineages are noted for directing speciation in the wild through sexual selection and preference.  Without morphological differences and a loss of viability between populations stemming from a common ancestral lineage, I have a hard time viewing maternal lineages as anything greater than family groups and sub-populations found within the greater population.

In the end this leaves breeders with the same dilemma Klee presents in summary; Science cannot reach consensus on P. reticulate wingei as a variant population or species.  So, why should we as breeders be overly worried about speciation status between variant guppy populations in the process of incipient speciation?  Personally, I see no reason.  As breeders our efforts should be focused on identification and retention of phenotypic traits from any of the three Guppy variants for incorporation into strains of Domestic Guppies.

Alexander, Heather J. and Felix Breden, “Sexual isolation and extreme morphological divergence in the Cumana guppy: a possible case of incipient speciation,” Journal of Evo-lutionaryBiology, 17, pp. 1238-54, 2004.
Klee, Albert J., (2013), Endler’s Guppy:  A Species Or Not A Species?, last checked 2.6.2014.

Poeser, F.N., M. Kempkes, and I.J.H. Isbrücker, “Descr iption of Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) wingei n. sp. from the Paría Peninsula, Venezuela, including notes on Acanthophacelus Eigenmann, 1907 and other subgenera of Poecilia Bloch and Schneider,1808 (Teleostei, Cyprinodontiformes, Poecili-idae).Contributions to Zoology74: 97–115,2005.

Schories, Susanne, Manfred K. Meyer & Manfred Schartl , “Descr iption of Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) obscuran. sp., (Teleostei:Poeciliidae), a new guppy species from western Trinidad, with remarks on P. wingei and the status of the “Endler’s guppy,”Zootaxa,2266: 35–50, 2009.


 Consider asking a knowledgeable breeder for help
 in identifying a unique trait you just observed
 in your strain before culling.  Never know,
 it might just be the newest mutation in the world of Guppies.


Click on blog photos to enlarge

Click on blog photos to enlarge