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Abstract

Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) have a promiscuous mating system in which female choice for brightly coloured males plays an important role. Consequently, much research on guppies has examined how mate choice by females has lead to the evolution of male colour patterns. Much less attention has been devoted to mate choice by males in this species. In this study, we show that male guppies are choosy when selecting a female to associate with, significantly preferring the larger female when presented with two females that differed by ≥2 mm in standard length (SL). The strength of their preference for each female increased with absolute female size. The relative sizes of the females, however, also influenced male mating preferences: males showed stronger preferences for the larger female as the difference in SL between the two females increased. Such a preference for larger females is not unexpected as fecundity generally increases with body size in female fish. Thus, males choosing to mate with the larger female should have higher reproductive success. An apparent, but non-significant anomaly, whereby males appear to prefer the smaller of the two females when the difference between female SL was <4 mm, deserves further investigation.