Repeatability of Male Mate Choice in the Mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki


Jean-Guy J. Godin, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada.


Male mate choice has evolved in many species in which female fecundity increases with body size. In these species, males are thought to have been selected to favour mating with large females over smaller ones, thereby potentially increasing their reproductive success. While male mate choice is known to occur, it is less well studied than female mate choice and little is known about variation in mating preference among individual males. Here, we presented individual male eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) with paired females that differed in body size, and we quantified their mate preference on two consecutive days, allowing us to assess repeatability of preferences expressed. When males were allowed to view paired stimulus females, but not to acquire chemical or tactile cues from them, they exhibited a strong preference for large females over smaller ones. However, individual males were not consistent in the strength of their preference and repeatability was not significant. When individual males were allowed to fully interact with pairs of females, the males again exhibited a preference for large females over smaller ones, as revealed by a greater number of attempted copulations with large females than with smaller ones. In the latter social context, individual male preference was significantly repeatable. These results indicate that male eastern mosquitofish from our Florida study population possess, on average, a mating preference for larger females and that this preference is repeatable when males socially interact freely with females. The significant repeatability for mating preference, based on female body size, obtained for male mosquitofish in the current study is consistent with the presence of additive genetic variation for such preferences in our study population and thus with the opportunity for the further evolution of large body size in female mosquitofish through male mate choice.