Original Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 366-374

Quantifying male attractiveness and mating behaviour through phenotypic size manipulation in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata

  • Kit MagellanAffiliated withGatty Marine Laboratory, School of Biology, University of St Andrews Email author 
  • , Lars B. PetterssonAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University
  • , Anne E. MagurranAffiliated withGatty Marine Laboratory, School of Biology, University of St Andrews

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Although many studies have examined the effects of male size on attractiveness and mating behaviour, few have taken genetic background into consideration. Phenotypic manipulation permits the experimental adjustment of morphological traits while keeping genetic background constant. Here, male guppies, Poecilia reticulata, an ideal model for this type of manipulation, were raised at different temperatures to produce sibling pairs that differed in size. These were then used to investigate male mating behaviour and male attractiveness, assessed through female mate choice, in relation to this size dimorphism. Further, male–male competition, which is intrinsic to male mating behaviour, is also likely to be affected by their size. Through the use of repeated measures analyses we demonstrate that females significantly prefer larger males and male size and competition significantly affect several aspects of male mating behaviour. Larger siblings perform more sneaky mating attempts and spend more time chasing females. The frequencies of both these behaviours increase with competition. While display frequency is unaffected by male size and competition, display duration and the amount of time spent attending females are reduced in the presence of competitors. This study highlights the use of phenotypic manipulation as a valuable tool for investigating behavioural interactions and confirms that both male size and competition are significant factors in the guppy mating system.


Male size Guppy Mating behaviour Life history decisions Phenotypic manipulation