Multi-attribute mate choice decisions and uncertainty in the decision process: a generalized sequential search strategy
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- Wiegmann, D.D., Weinersmith, K.L. & Seubert, S.M. J. Math. Biol. (2010) 60: 543. doi:10.1007/s00285-009-0274-7
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The behavior of females in search of a mate determines the likelihood that high quality males are encountered and adaptive search strategies rely on the effective use of available information on the quality of prospective mates. The sequential search strategy was formulated, like most models of search behavior, on the assumption that females obtain perfect information on the quality of encountered males. In this paper, we modify the strategy to allow for uncertainty of male quality and we determine how the magnitude of this uncertainty and the ability of females to inspect multiple male attributes to reduce uncertainty influence mate choice decisions. In general, searchers are sensitive to search costs and higher costs lower acceptance criteria under all versions of the model. The choosiness of searchers increases with the variability of the quality of prospective mates under conditions of the original model, but under conditions of uncertainty the choosiness of searchers may increase or decrease with the variability of inspected male attributes. The behavioral response depends on the functional relationship between observed male attributes and the fitness return to searchers and on costs associated with the search process. Higher uncertainty often induces searchers to pay more for information and under conditions of uncertainty the fitness return to searchers is never higher than under conditions of the original model. Further studies of the performance of alternative search strategies under conditions of uncertainty may consequently be necessary to identify search strategies likely to be used under natural conditions.