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Male Sexual Preference for Female Swimming Activity in the Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany
Faculty of Life Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 42, 10115 Berlin, Germany
Cluster of Excellence, Science of Intelligence (SCIoI), Technische Universität Berlin, Marchstraße 23, 10587 Berlin, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Klaudia Witte
Biology 2021, 10(2), 147;
Received: 15 January 2021 / Revised: 4 February 2021 / Accepted: 9 February 2021 / Published: 12 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Personality in Sexual Selection)
In our first experiment, we found that male and female guppies differ consistently in their swimming activity, both when alone and when together in heterosexual pairs, and that males, regardless of their own activity, show more sexual behaviours to more active females in these pairs. In the second experiment, we gave males the choice between a slow and a fast-moving virtual female and found that males prefer to associate with the fast-moving female. Both experiments together provide evidence that guppy males prefer faster moving females as mating partners over slower moving ones. Higher activity patterns may indicate health, fitness and receptivity and a mating preference for more active females can help males increase their own reproductive success.
Mate choice that is based on behavioural traits is a common feature in the animal kingdom. Using the Trinidadian guppy, a species with mutual mate choice, we investigated whether males use female swimming activity—a behavioural trait known to differ consistently among individuals in many species—as a trait relevant for their mate choice. In the first experiment, we assessed male and female activity in an open field test alone (two repeated measures) and afterwards in heterosexual pairs (two repeated measures). In these pairs, we simultaneously assessed males’ mating efforts by counting the number of sexual behaviours (courtship displays and copulations). Male and female guppies showed consistent individual differences in their swimming activity when tested both alone and in a pair, and these differences were maintained across both test situations. When controlling for male swimming behaviour and both male and female body size, males performed more courtship displays towards females with higher swimming activity. In a second experiment, we tested for a directional male preference for swimming activity by presenting males video animations of low- and high-active females in a dichotomous choice test. In congruence with experiment 1, we found males to spend significantly more time in association with the high-active female stimulus. Both experiments thus point towards a directional male preference for higher activity levels in females. We discuss the adaptive significance of this preference as activity patterns might indicate individual female quality, health or reproductive state while, mechanistically, females that are more active might be more detectable to males as well. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal personality; swimming activity; male mate choice; mating preferences; Poecilia reticulata animal personality; swimming activity; male mate choice; mating preferences; Poecilia reticulata
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bierbach, D.; Wenchel, R.; Gehrig, S.; Wersing, S.; O’Connor, O.L.; Krause, J. Male Sexual Preference for Female Swimming Activity in the Guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Biology 2021, 10, 147.

AMA Style

Bierbach D, Wenchel R, Gehrig S, Wersing S, O’Connor OL, Krause J. Male Sexual Preference for Female Swimming Activity in the Guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Biology. 2021; 10(2):147.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Bierbach, David, Ronja Wenchel, Stefan Gehrig, Serafina Wersing, Olivia L. O’Connor, and Jens Krause. 2021. "Male Sexual Preference for Female Swimming Activity in the Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)" Biology 10, no. 2: 147.

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