The Disruption Hypothesis Does Not Explain Mate-Choice Copying in the Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)


Corresponding author: Lee A. Dugatkin, Department of Biology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA. E-mail:


In some species, female mate choice is non-independent as, under certain circumstances, females may copy the mate choice of other nearby females. One standard experimental protocol used to test for mate-choice copying is the mate-choice ‘reversal’ protocol. In this protocol, a focal female is allowed to choose between two males as potential mates and then is presented with an opportunity to see another female (i.e. the model female) choose the male that she did not initially choose. The focal is subsequently allowed to again choose between the same set of males. An observed reversal of her initial choice in this second preference test has been previously interpreted as evidence for mate-choice copying. Alternatively, it has recently been proposed that environmental events, such as seeing the mate choice of nearby females that occur within the visual field of a female actively engaged in mate assessment, may ‘disrupt’ her decision-making behavior and consequently alter the consistency of her mating preference, and may thus cause mate-choice reversals. The disruption hypothesis predicts that if a model female is placed near the male that the focal female initially chose, the latter's mate preference would be disrupted and she would subsequently and consistently prefer the male that she initially rejected. Here we examined whether the disruption hypothesis explains mate-choice copying in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Our results do not support this hypothesis, but rather provide further support for mate-choice copying in the guppy.