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Keywords:

  • Courtship;
  • guppy;
  • male mate choice;
  • phenotypic variation;
  • Poecilia reticulata ;
  • sexual selection

Abstract

Although mate choice by males does occur in nature, our understanding of its importance in driving evolutionary change remains limited compared with that for female mate choice. Recent theoretical models have shown that the evolution of male mate choice is more likely when individual variation in male mating effort and mating preferences exist and positively covary within populations. However, relatively little is known about the nature of such variation and its maintenance within natural populations. Here, using the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata) as a model study system, we report that mating effort and mating preferences in males, based on female body length (a strong correlate of fecundity), positively covary and are significantly variable among subjects. Individual males are thus consistent, but not unanimous, in their mate choice. Both individual mating effort (including courtship effort) and mating preference were significantly repeatable. These novel findings support the assumptions and predictions of recent evolutionary models of male mate choice, and are consistent with the presence of additive genetic variation for male mate choice based on female size in our study population and thus with the opportunity for selection and further evolution of large female body size through male mate choice.