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Keywords:

  • Male choice;
  • plasticity;
  • reproductive tactics;
  • social environment

Phenotypically plastic mating behavior may allow males to modify their reproductive behavior to suit the prevailing social conditions, but we do not know if males only react to immediate social stimuli or change their inherent mate preferences according to their social history. Here we examine the effect of social experiences on the subsequent reproductive behavior of male guppies under standard conditions, allowing us to distinguish the effect of past and immediate social conditions. Males experienced experimental conditioning periods during which they interacted with three females, either of variable size or of similar size. Females arrived either simultaneously or consecutively. In subsequent standard assays, only males that had experienced females of variable size preferentially courted large females. Further, males exposed to sequential female arrival courted subsequent females more vigorously than males that had experienced simultaneous female arrival. In contrast, males did not alter their coercive mating attempts in relation to their recent social history. These results demonstrate that males use past experiences to modify their subsequent reproductive behavior rather than reacting only to immediate stimuli, and reveal the sophisticated ways in which males alter their reproductive tactics to suit the social environment and maximize fitness across changing selective landscapes.