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Stress Responses of Male Guinea Pigs Predict Female Preference


Ivo H. Machatschke, Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstr. 14, Vienna A-1090, Austria. E-mail:


Mate choice is a critical part of sexual selection. One constituent of mate choice is attractiveness, which serves as a projection surface for traits signalling quality and condition to prospective reproductive partners. In guinea pigs, females generally decide whom they will select as partner and when to switch to a new one. The aim of this study was to investigate for universality in male traits possibly associated with female preference. Characteristics of stress response were chosen, as they are relatively stable in their behavioural and physiological expression. Two consecutive experiments were done on isosexually kept males. In the first experiment, behavioural performance in a forced swim-test was noted, after basal endocrine status had been documented with three samples per individual. In a second experiment, the same males were presented to females in a round-robin choice paradigm. A discriminant analysis confirmed a categorization of males into groups that were preferred by different females either two times [more preferred (MP), n = 6] or less than that [less preferred (LP), n = 12]. Mean basal cortisol levels were comparable, but mean basal testosterone (T) was significantly higher in LP. This points at a scenario where higher T might be advantageous in male–male competition but perhaps less important for the formation of male–female bonds. Behaviourally, MP completed the swim-test significantly faster than LP, which may indicate greater goal directedness and motivation. We conclude that traits associated with stress responses may be components of male attractiveness, their stability perhaps reflecting adaptive qualities.