Although females in numerous species generally prefer males with larger, brighter and more elaborate sexual traits, there is nonetheless considerable intra- and interpopulation variation in mating preferences amongst females that requires explanation. Such variation exists in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata, an important model organism for the study of sexual selection and mate choice. While female guppies tend to prefer more ornamented males as mates, particularly those with greater amounts of orange coloration, there remains variation both in male traits and female mating preferences within and between populations. Male body size is another trait that is sexually selected through female mate choice in some species, but has not been examined as extensively as body coloration in the guppy despite known intra- and interpopulation variation in this trait among adult males and its importance for survivorship in this species. In this study, we used a dichotomous-choice test to quantify the mating preferences of female guppies, originating from a low-predation population in Trinidad, for two male traits, body length and area of the body covered with orange and black pigmentation, independently of each other. We expected strong female mating preferences for both male body length and coloration in this population, given relaxation from predation and presumably relatively low cost of choice. Females indeed exhibited a strong preference for larger males as expected, but surprisingly a weaker (but nonetheless significant) preference for orange and black coloration. Interestingly, larger females demonstrated stronger preferences for larger males than did smaller females, which could potentially lead to size-assortative mating in nature.

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Department of Biology

Auld, H.L. (Heather L.), Pusiak, R.J.P. (Ryan J. P.), & Godin, J.-G.J. (2016). Independent Mating Preferences for Male Body Size and Coloration in Female Trinidadian Guppies. Ethology, 122(7), 597–608. doi:10.1111/eth.12506