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Abstract

Both sexes of the herbivorous damselfish Stegastes nigricans maintain individual feeding territories. These territories are distributed contiguously, forming distinct colonies. Females visit male territories to spawn, and eggs are guarded by males until hatching. Male-male competition and female mate choice were studied in two colonies of different size compositions. Only larger individuals bred in both colonies. Some males in the large colony, that were larger than the breeding males in the small colony, did not succeed in reproducing probably because of severe attacks by the larger males while courting. However, females did not choose large size among breeding males. The most important male characteristic in female choice was the frequency of courtship displays in both colonies. Females in the large colony chose males mainly on the basis of the frequency of displays conducted in the females' territories, whereas females in the small colony chose males on the basis of the frequency of displays conducted in the males' territories. This difference may be a result of the difference in colony size. The distances between females' and males' territories were much greater in the large colony, and, because females cannot see courtship displays conducted in distant male territories, males in the large colony may have had to visit female territories frequently in order to conduct courtship near the females.