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The Effects of Predator Exposure On the Female Choice of Guppies (Poecilia Reticulata) From a High-Predation Population

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Studies have shown that, under intense predation, guppy (Poecilia reticulata) populations have evolved duller male colouration and weaker female preference for brightly coloured males. Gong & Gibson (1996) found that females descended from a low-predation population responded to the presence of a fish predator by becoming less receptive and reversing their typical sexual preference for the brighter and more active of a pair of males. Here, I investigated whether this response is more strongly developed in guppies descended from a captive population exposed to predation from a natural predator. I measured the social and sexual preferences of virgin females for a pair of males both before and after visual exposure to a predatory cichlid in an adjacent tank. Females initially preferred the more actively displaying male. Exposure to the cichlid caused some females to become unreceptive and the remainder avoided the previously preferred male. These effects did not differ in magnitude from the responses of females descended from a low-predation population (Gong & Gibson, 1996). The avoidance of conspicuous males by females seems to be a generalized response to predation risk that is independent of current predation pressure on a population.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606, USA

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