Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 173–182 | Cite as

Repeatability: Its role in evolutionary studies of mating behavior

  • Christine R. B. Boake


Repeatability, a concept derived from quantitative genetics theory, is a statistic that describes the degree to which variation within individuals contributes to total variation in a population. Its usual application has been to set an upper limit on heritability but it may also be useful for studies of stereotypy of behavior. The repeatability of the production of male mating signals gives information both about whether males differ sufficiently for selection to act and whether the differences could be appreciably heritable. Measures of the repeatability of female mating preferences will provide data that can describe the preference functions used in mathematical models of the evolution of sexually selected traits, as well as putting an upper bound on the heritability of preferences. A survey of the few measures in the literature shows that the repeatability of male signal production varies substantially (range 0.21–0.85) and does not necessarily reflect heritability. The repeatabilities of female preferences have not been published previously: for the response to conspecific pheromones by female flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum), my best estimate is zero. Measuring the repeatability of other traits such as parental care and foraging behavior may also lead to insights about selection on and the evolution of these traits.


Repeatability sexual selection mating behavior evolution communication female preferences 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arnold, S. J. (1981) Behavioral variation in natural populations. II. The inheritance of a feeding response in crosses between geographic races of the garter snake,Thamnophis elegans.Evolution 35, 510–15.Google Scholar
  2. Bakker, T. C. M. (1986) Aggressiveness in sticklebacks (Gasteroesteus aculeatus L.): a behaviour—genetic study.Behaviour 98, 1–144.Google Scholar
  3. Boag, P. T. (1983) The heritability of external morphology in Darwin's ground finches (Geospiza) on Isla Daphne Major, Galapagos.Evolution 37, 877–94.Google Scholar
  4. Boake, C. R. B. (1986) A method for testing adaptive hypotheses of mate choice.Amer. Natur. 127, 654–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bradbury, J. W. and Andersson, M. B. (eds) (1987)Sexual Selection: Testing the Alternatives. Dahlem Konferenzen. John Wiley, Chichester, UK.Google Scholar
  6. Butlin, R. K. and Hewitt, G. M. (1986) Heritability estimates for characters under sexual selection in the grasshopper,Chorthippus brunneus.Anim. Behav. 34, 1256–61.Google Scholar
  7. Charlesworth, B. (1987) The heritability of fitness.Sexual Selection: Testing the Alternatives. J. W. Bradbury and M. B. Andersson (eds), pp. 21–40. Dahlem Konferenzen. John Wiley, Chichester, UK.Google Scholar
  8. Du, J.-W., Lofstedt, C. and Lofqvist, J. (1987) Repeatability of pheromone emissions from individual female ermine mothsYponomeuta padellus andYponomeuta rorellus.J. Chem. Ecol. 13, 1431–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Falconer, D. S. (1981)Introduction to Quantitative Genetics, 2nd edn. Longman, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  10. Findlay, C. S. and Cooke, F. (1983) Genetic and environmental components of clutch size variance in a wild population of lesser snow geese (Anser caerulescens caerulescens).Evolution 37, 724–34.Google Scholar
  11. Fisher, R. A. (1958)The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, 2nd edn. Dover, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  12. Gerhardt, H. C. (1982) Sound pattern recognition in some North American treefrogs (Anura: Hylidae): Implications for mate choice.Amer. Zool. 22, 581–95.Google Scholar
  13. Gibson, R. M. and Bradbury, J. W. (1985) Sexual selection in lekking sage grouse: phenotypic correlates of mating success.Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 18, 117–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hedrick, A. V. (1986) Female preferences for male calling bout duration in a field cricket.Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 19, 73–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hedrick, A. V. (1988) Female choice and the heritability of attractive male traits: an empirical study.Amer. Natur. 132, 267–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heisler, I. L. (1984) A quantitative genetic model for the origin of mating preferences.Evolution 38, 1283–95Google Scholar
  17. Heisler, I. L. (1985) Quantitative genetic models of female choice based on ‘arbitrary’ male characters.Heredity 55, 187–98.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoy, R. R., Pollack, G. S. and Moiseff, A. (1982) Species-recognition in the field cricket,Teleogryllus oceanicus: behavioral and neural mechanisms,Amer. Zool. 22, 597–607.Google Scholar
  19. Kirkpatrick, M. (1985) Evolution of female choice and male parental investment in polygynous species: the demise of the ‘sexy son’.Amer. Natur. 125, 788–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kirkpatrick, M. (1986) The handicap mechanism of sexual selection does not work.Amer. Natur. 127, 222–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lande, R. (1976) Natural selection and random genetic drift in phenotypic evolution.Evolution 30, 314–34.Google Scholar
  22. Lande, R. (1981) Models of speciation by sexual selection on polygenic traits.Pr. Nat. Acad. Sci., US 78, 3721–5.Google Scholar
  23. Lessells, C. M. and Boag, P. T. (1987) Unrepeatable repeatabilities: a common mistake.Auk 104, 116–21.Google Scholar
  24. Lloyd, J. E. (1966) Studies on the flash communication system inPhotinus fireflies.Misc. Publs. Mus. Zool. Univ. Mich. 130, 1–95.Google Scholar
  25. Machlis, L., Dodd, P. W. D. and Fentress, J. C. (1985) The pooling fallacy: problems arising when individuals contribute more than one observation to the data set.Z. Tierpsychol. 68, 201–14.Google Scholar
  26. Mather, K. and Jinks, J. L. (1971)Biometrical Genetics. Chapman and Hall, London, UK.Google Scholar
  27. Maynard Smith, J. (1978)The Evolution of Sex. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar
  28. Plomin, R., DeFries, J. C. and McClearn, G. E. (1980)Behavioral Genetics: A Primer, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, USA.Google Scholar
  29. Schoener, T. W. (1987) A brief history of optimal foraging ecology.Foraging Behavior. A. C. Kamil, J. R. Krebs and H. R. Pulliam (eds), pp. 5–67. Plenum Press, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  30. Shaffer, H. B. and Lauder, G. V. (1985) Patterns of variation in aquatic ambystomatid salamanders: kinematics of the feeding mechanism.Evolution 39, 83–92.Google Scholar
  31. Shaw, R. G. (1987) Maximum-likelihood approaches applied to quantitative genetics of natural populations.Evolution 41, 812–26.Google Scholar
  32. Sokal, R. R. and Rohlf, F. J. (1981)Biometry, 2nd edn. W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, USA.Google Scholar
  33. Sokolowski, M. B. (1986)Drosophila larval foraging behavior and correlated behaviors.Evolutionary Genetics of Invertebrate Behavior: Progress and Prospects. M. D. Huettel (ed.), pp. 197–213. Plenum Press, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  34. Thornhill, R. (1983) Cryptic female choice and its implications in the scorpionflyHarpobittacus nigriceps.Amer. Natur. 122, 765–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Travis, J. and Woodward, B. D. (1989) Social context and courtship flexibility in male sailfin mollies,Poecilia Labipinna (Pisces: Poeciliidae). In PressAnim. Behav. Google Scholar
  36. Walker, T. J. (1975) Effects of temperature on rates in poikilotherm nervous systems: evidence from the calling songs of meadow katydids (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae:Orchelimum) and reanalysis of published data.J. Comp. Physiol. 101, 57–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wallin, A. (1988) The genetics of foraging behaviour: artificial selection for food choice in larvae of the fruitfly,Drosophila melanogaster.Anim. Behav. 36, 106–14.Google Scholar
  38. White, J. M., Vinson, W. E. and Pearson, R. E. (1981) Dairy cattle improvement and genetics.J. Dairy Sci. 64, 1305–17.Google Scholar
  39. Zeh, D. W. (1987) Life history consequences of sexual dimorphism in a chernetid pseudoscorpion.Ecology 68, 1495–1501.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine R. B. Boake
    • 1
  1. 1.Hawaiian Evolutionary Biology ProgramThe University of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations