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Male guppies (Poecilia reticulata) adjust their mate choice behaviour to the presence of an audience

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In recent years analyzing animal behaviour in light of the social environment has become widely accepted. Especially many mating interactions do not happen in privacy, but in a public arena, raising the question of how this affects the behaviour of both the focal individual and the observing audience individual. We studied in feral guppies whether male preferences for female body size, a correlate of fecundity, are influenced by the presence of another male, the audience. We also studied whether the audience was influenced by the observed interactions. These two aspects are not normally studied together. Furthermore, we were also interested in the question of how long changes in the behaviour of the audience male might last. We found that male preferences measured as nipping/approaches decreased in the presence of an audience. Furthermore, the audience males showed no preference for larger females when tested right after the interaction with the focal male, but returned to the typical preference for larger females after 24 h. Our study highlights the relevance of the social conditions under which mating decisions are being made.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, 730 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, OK 73019, USA; 2: Department of Ecology and Evolution, J.W. Goethe University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany


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