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Female courtship in the Banggai cardinalfish: honest signals of egg maturity and reproductive output?


Despite the vast literature on male courtship behaviour, little is known about the function and information content of female courtship behaviour. Female courtship behaviour may be important in many species, particularly where both sexes invest heavily in the offspring, and if such behaviours contain honest information regarding a female’s potential reproductive investment, they may be particularly important in male mate choice. Using observations of two female courtship behaviours (the “rush” and the “twitch”) from experimental pairings in the Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni), I addressed the question of whether these courtship behaviours contained information on female reproductive output (clutch weight) and egg maturity (proximity to spawning), traits commonly associated with male mate choice. I especially focused on the importance of these courtship behaviours in relation to other female characters, such as size and condition, using multiple regression. I found that one of these behaviours, the rush, was strongly associated with fecundity, whereas size, condition and the twitch were not. Further, I found that the “twitch” behaviour was associated with how close to actual spawning a female was. The results suggest that female courtship behaviour may convey highly important information in a mate choice context. I discuss the adaptive value of honest information in female courtship behaviour in light of these results.

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I thank Jens Olsson for help with collection of behavioural data. Comments by Ben Sheldon, Anders Berglund, Anna Qvarnström, Claudia Fricke, Urban Friberg, Sarah Robinson-Wolrath, Göran Arnqvist, Anssi Laurila and three anonymous referees helped to improve earlier drafts. This study was financed partly by the Zoological Foundation and Inez Johanssons Foundation.

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Correspondence to Niclas Kolm.

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Communicated by K. Lindström

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Kolm, N. Female courtship in the Banggai cardinalfish: honest signals of egg maturity and reproductive output?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 56, 59–64 (2004).

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  • Female courtship display
  • Honest information
  • Differential allocation
  • Male mate choice