Reversible frequency-dependent switches in male mate choice

Proc Biol Sci. 2001 Jan 7;268(1462):83-5. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1333.


Current sexual-selection theories predict that mating should occur preferentially with the highest-quality partner, and assume that for distinguishing among potential mates the choosy sex applies an internal representation of the characteristics of the desired mate, i.e. a template. Binary choice experiments were performed to test male mate choice between two different female colour morphs in the damselfly Ischnura elegans. Choice experiments were conducted before and after an habituation period, during which males were exposed to only one female colour morph. Given the choice between the two female morphs, males did exhibit a choice for the most recently experienced female morph. This is the first evidence for a reversible switch in mate choice in a frequency-dependent way. In contrast with previous studies on mate choice, template formation in male I. elegans seems not to be based on quality. Switching mate choice in a frequency-dependent manner, choosing the most common morph, probably allows males to minimize their search efforts and to maximize fitness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior
  • Color
  • Female
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Population Density
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*