, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 543-549
Date: 16 Dec 2008

Strategic male signalling effort in a desert-dwelling fish

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Abstract

Males often use elaborate courtship displays to attract females for mating. Much attention, in this regard, has been focused on trying to understand the causes and consequences of signal variation among males. Far less, by contrast, is known about within-individual variation in signal expression and, in particular, the extent to which males may be able to strategically adjust their signalling output to try to maximise their reproductive returns. Here, we experimentally investigated male courtship effort in a fish, the Australian desert goby, Chlamydogobius eremius. When offered a simultaneous choice between a large and a small female, male gobies spent significantly more time associating with, and courting, the former, probably because larger females are also more fecund. Male signalling patterns were also investigated under a sequential choice scenario, with females presented one at a time. When first offered a female, male courtship was not affected by female size. However, males adjusted their courtship effort towards a second female depending on the size of the female encountered previously. In particular, males that were first offered a large female significantly reduced their courtship effort when presented with a subsequent, smaller, female. Our findings suggest that males may be able to respond adaptively to differences in female quality, and strategically adjust their signalling effort accordingly.

Communicated by K. Lindström