Repeatability of female choice in the guppy: response to live and videotaped males

Anim Behav. 1997 Aug;54(2):369-76. doi: 10.1006/anbe.1996.0420.


The degree to which females are consistent in their mate preferences has implications for studies of sexual selection. Because choice of females for particular males may be affected by temporal changes in male characteristics, consistency of mate preferences of individual females of Poecilia reticulata was studied by presenting them with the same male pairs in consecutive trials under three experimental procedures: live males behind clear glass, live males behind one-way glass and images of males on videotape. Although females did not habituate to males in any of the experiments, they spent significantly more time in proximity to males behind clear glass than in the video and one-way glass presentations. Females preferred the bright male over the pale one in the video and the clear glass presentations, but not in the one-way glass experiment. Repeatability of preferences by individual females for a male was high in the video and one-way glass presentations but low in the clear-glass experiment. Behavioural interactions with the male in the clear-glass experiment affected both the time that females spent viewing males as well as female visual preferences. Results indicate that the video playback is not only useful for detecting differences between female preferences for morphological traits of male guppies, but is also much more effective in detecting preferences than the other two techniques, because it eliminates temporal variation in male behaviour.