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Abstract

Variation in female mating preferences was previously detected in wild-caught Xiphophorus cortezi and Xiphophorus malinche females: smaller (presumed younger) females preferred symmetrical males, while larger (presumed older) females preferred asymmetrical males. We examined the influence of experience on this variation in female preference by determining if X. malinche females would express a preference for symmetry as virgins, shift their preferences for bar symmetry as they got larger (older) and if experience with males of different bar number symmetry could explain the variation in female preference previously detected. Virgin females exhibited no preference for vertical bar number symmetry when tested in the young- or old-age classes. However, young virgins spent more time with the opposite treatment in the second when compared with first test, indicating an ability to detect the difference between symmetry and asymmetry, and potentially a preference to mate with multiple males. When females were reared in one of three treatments, housed with symmetrical, barless or both symmetrical and asymmetrical males, we detected both a treatment and tank effect on strength of preference for symmetry, suggesting that barring pattern and some other aspect of the social environment influenced the development of this mating preference. Finally, we detected no effect of age class on mean strength of preference for symmetry; however, there was a statistically different relationship between female size and strength of preference for symmetry across the two age classes, suggesting that the preference function for symmetry may not be linear in relation to female size.