In vertebrates, the mating preferences of individual females can be flexible and the probability of a female mating with a particular male can be significantly increased by her having previously observed another conspecific female affiliate and mate with that same male. In theory, such mate-choice-copying behaviour has potentially important consequences for both the genetic and social ('cultural') transmission of female mating preferences. For copying to result in the 'cultural inheritance' of mating preferences, individual females must not only copy the mate choice decisions of other females but they also should tend to repeat this type of behaviour (i.e. make similar mating decisions) subsequently and to generalize their socially induced preference for a particular male to other males that share his distinctive characteristics. Here, we show experimentally that individual female guppies, Poecilia reticulata, not only copy the observed mating preferences of other females for particular males, but that the preference now assumed via copying is subsequently repeated and generalized to other males of a similar colour phenotype. These results provide empirical evidence for social enhancement of female preference for particular phenotypic traits of chosen males rather than for the particular males possessing those traits, and thus have important implications for our understanding of the role of social learning in the evolution of female mating preferences and of male epigamic traits.

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Journal Animal Behaviour
Godin, J.-G.J, Herdman, E.J.E. (Emily J.E.), & Dugatkin, L.A. (Lee A.). (2005). Social influences on female mate choice in the guppy, Poecilia reticulata: Generalized and repeatable trait-copying behaviour. Animal Behaviour, 69(4), 999–1005. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2004.07.016