Based on the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis, sexual selection should favour females that can accurately assess the recent mating history of available sexual partners and preferentially avoid mating with recently-mated males [who may be sperm depleted (SD)] so as to minimize the risk of their eggs not being fertilized. This hypothesis has received to date only limited attention and empirical support. Therefore, in the current study, we investigated experimentally whether females of a vertebrate species, the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata), are able to assess the recent mating history of males, and thus potentially their functional fertility, and choose to avoid mating with males that appear to have recently mated and who may be sperm limited. Individual virgin females were first given a dichotomous choice between a male that had not been recently observed to interact sexually with another female (i.e. not sperm-depleted) and another male that had been observed to interact sexually with a female (i.e. potentially sperm-depleted) as sexual partners. Paired males were matched for body length and coloration. Immediately following this test, the focal females were subjected to a free-swimming mate-choice test using the same paired stimulus males. As predicted, on average, female guppies avoided the apparently recently-mated (and potentially sperm-depleted) male and exhibited a significant preference for the other male not recently observed mating (and thus not likely sperm limited) during both tests. We do not yet fully understand the underlying mechanisms of this preference. Therefore, further research on the particular cues that females use to assess the recent mating history and fertility status of males is required.

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Keywords Fish, Functional fertility, Guppy, Mate choice, Mating history, Sexual selection, Sperm depletion
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Journal Ethology
Scarponi, V. (Valentina), Chowdhury, D. (Deepro), & Godin, J.-G.J. (2015). Male Mating History Influences Female Mate Choice in the Trinidadian Guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Ethology, 121(11), 1091–1103. doi:10.1111/eth.12427