Abstract: Consistent between-individual differences in behaviour, known as personality differences, are heritable and have consequences for individual survival and reproductive success. Therefore, it is likely that personality differences are not just under natural but also under sexual selection. Indeed, the recently developed idea that individuals choose their mate based on its personality finds empirical support. However, most studies on mate choice based on personality traits are correlative pioneering work and there is a paucity of experimental studies that test for causality by disentangling personality measures from other, potentially correlated traits that may be important during mate choice. Here, we tested female preference for the apparent level and consistency of either male aggression (measured as mean distance of approach towards an animated opponent, manipulated by locating males at a fixed distance) or male boldness (measured as activity under a simulated predation threat, manipulated using a gradient in ambient water temperature) in a bi-parental West African cichlid, Pelvicachromis pulcher. Females could observe the apparent behaviour of paired stimulus males and were allowed to choose between the two stimulus males in a subsequent choice test. We found no direct effect of male apparent aggression/boldness on female choice, but an indirect effect such that female preference for the apparently bold male increased with increasing within-male pair contrast in their apparent level of boldness. Our results indicate females consider male boldness per se during mate choice, suggesting male boldness is sexually selected in our study species. Significance statement: Ever since Darwin introduced the concept of sexual selection, female choice has been studied extensively. However, the hypothesis that consistent between-individual differences in behaviour (known as personality differences) affect mate choice is relatively new. Correlative studies support this idea but provide only suggestive evidence. Here, we used behavioural manipulations in order to disentangle male behaviour from other, potentially correlated male traits, allowing us to test for causality between female choice and personality differences in male aggression and boldness (both in level and consistency of behaviour) in a bi-parental cichlid. We found no overall female preference for male apparent behaviour, but female preference for the bold-appearing male increased with increasing between-male contrast in apparent boldness. Our results indicate a causal link between female choice and male boldness. In future, behavioural manipulations using a temperature gradient could provide further valuable insights.

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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Department of Biology

Scherer, U. (Ulrike), Godin, J.-G.J, & Schuett, W. (Wiebke). (2020). Do female rainbow kribs choose males on the basis of their apparent aggression and boldness? A non-correlational mate choice study. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 74(3). doi:10.1007/s00265-019-2794-5