Evidence of female-promoted polyandry in Trinidadian guppies
Polyandry is extremely common across a wide range of organisms. In promiscuous mating systems, females are often sexually harassed by males, but at the same time obtain benefits from multiple mating. It remains unclear whether polyandry is exclusively imposed by males or is also promoted by females. Here, we investigated this question by recording the time spent by female guppies near a single male or a group of males with similar size and colour patterns over three consecutive days. We accounted for the effect of shoaling by using a control treatment where a group of females was used instead of a group of males. Results showed that females spent significantly more time near the group of males, but not with the group of females. In the presence of a group of males, total female mating preference time did not change over the course of the study, but rather shifted from spending more time near the single male at the beginning of the experiment to spending more time near the group of males. The consequence of this female preference for associating with a group of males in a non-experimental setup would be to promote multiple mating. Our result indicates that polyandry in guppies is at least partially encouraged by females, and not entirely a consequence of male sexual behaviour.