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FEMALE MATE PREFERENCE IS FOR MALE TOTAL LENGTH, NOT TAIL LENGTH IN FERAL GUPPIES

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Exaggerated male traits can evolve either directly by female choice of males with those traits or indirectly by female preferences for related traits. In this study, we tested whether female choice was based upon male tail length or total length in a feral guppy population in Okinawa, Japan. In this population, about 30% of the males had elongated sword-like tails, and even swordless males had longer tails than females. A series of dichotomous female choice experiments revealed that female guppies chose mates by total length, not by tail length itself. This is inconsistent with the handicap principle. Tail elongation of male guppies may have evolved as a male mating strategy to enhance their attraction to females, mediated by female preference for longer male total length. However, only one-third of the males developed pronounced sword-like tails. This suggests that there are some costs for tail elongation or trade-offs between multiple sexually selected traits. Alternatively, tail elongation may be a deceptive male strategy with frequency-dependent success.

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