The role of information in mate-choice copying in female sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna)
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Female mate choice is a complex process involving both genetic and social factors. Extrinsic cues may play a role in determining how these factors interact. Mate-choice copying is a socially influenced mate-choice strategy in which females observe other females during mate choice and choose the same male as those females. Previous studies have shown that female sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna) prefer larger over smaller males, and this preference is assumed to be genetically based. In this study we tested, first, whether sailfin molly females changed their mate preference in favour of smaller males when they could obtain more information by observing two model females sequentially for 5 min each or one model female for 20 min next to the smaller male. Second, we tested if females that had changed their preferences in favour of smaller males maintained this learned preference afterwards. In copying experiments, females changed their preferences in favour of smaller males both when they could observe two model females each for 5 min near by a smaller male and when they could observe one model female for 20 min near the smaller male. In the latter case, females maintained this learned preference for smaller males up to 5 weeks after the copying experiment. This shows that mate-choice copying has a long-lasting effect on mate-choice decisions in sailfin molly females and that mate-choice copying can serve as a mechanism for cultural inheritance of mate preferences in females.
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