Sexually signalling animals must trade off the benefits of attracting mates with the consequences of attracting predators. For male guppies, predation risk depends on their behaviour, colouration, environmental conditions and changing intensity of predation throughout the day. Theoretically, this drives diel patterns of display behaviour in native Trinidadian populations, where males display more under low-light conditions when their most dangerous predator is less active. Here, we observed Australian guppies in a laboratory setting to investigate their diel display pattern, and if this pattern is controlled by ambient light intensity. We also quantified individual variation in both the daily frequency and diel pattern of displays, and if such variation relates to body size, colouration and a non-sexual behaviour. Under a typical daily light regime, male guppies displayed mostly in the first hour of observation. Extending the duration of dawn-like lighting, however, resulted in an extended period of high display, demonstrating that light intensity per se is an important cue for this behaviour. These findings mirror those obtained for Trinidadian populations, suggesting that male courtship timing is likely shaped by broad, potentially generalizable features of guppy ecology. The effect of acclimation to captive conditions on male behaviour is also discussed. Whereas the temporal pattern of display appeared consistent, individuals varied in their daily display frequency, and this was correlated with variation in colour phenotype and a measure of non-sexual risk acceptance behaviour. Such relationships pose promising avenues for integrating behavioural and sensory ecology with contemporary work on behavioural syndromes and animal personality.
To limit the costs of their conspicuous colour patterns, male guppies should alter their behaviour to avoid predation. However, our understanding of how different individuals deal with this problem is lacking. Following individuals in the laboratory, we demonstrated individual variation in the daily frequency of male displays, and this was correlated with variation in colour phenotypes and non-sexual behaviour. However, all male guppies displayed more in the early hours of the day and extending the period of low lighting also extended this period of elevated display. These findings replicate and expand experiments on native populations, suggesting that male courtship timing is likely shaped by broad, potentially generalizable features of guppy ecology.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anderson DR, Burnham KP (2002) Avoiding pitfalls when using information-theoretic methods. J Wildl Manag 66:912–918. https://doi.org/10.1111/10.2307/3803155
Archard GA, Cuthill IC, Partridge JC (2009) Light environment and mating behavior in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 64:169–182. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-009-0834-2
Beckmann C, Biro PA (2013) On the validity of a single (boldness) assay in personality research. Ethology 119:937–947. https://doi.org/10.1111/eth.12137
Berger D, Gotthard K (2008) Time stress, predation risk and diurnal–nocturnal foraging trade-offs in larval prey. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 62:1655–1663. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-008-0594-4
Biro PA (2012) Do rapid assays predict repeatability in labile (behavioural) traits? Anim Behav 83:1295–1300. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.01.036
Bischoff RJ, Gould JL, Rubenstein DI (1985) Tail size and female choice in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 17:253–255. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00300143
Botham MS, Kerfoot CJ, Louca V, Krause J (2006) The effects of different predator species on antipredator behavior in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Naturwissenschaften 93:431–439. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-006-0131-0
Brooks R, Endler JA (2001) Female guppies agree to differ: phenotypic and genetic variation in mate-choice behaviour and the consequences for sexual selection. Evolution 55:1644–1655. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0014-3820.2001.tb00684.x
Brooks ME, Kristensen K, van Benthem KJ, Magnusson A, Berg CW, Nielsen A, Skaug HJ, Machler M, Bolker BM (2017) glmmTMB balances speed and flexibility among packages for zero-inflated generalized linear mixed modeling. R J 9:378–400
Brown C, Jones F, Braithwaite VA (2007) Correlation between boldness and body mass in natural populations of the poeciliid Brachyrhaphis episcopi. J Fish Biol 71:1590–1601. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01627.x
Chapman BB, Hulthén K, Blomqvist DR, Hansson LA, Nilsson JA, Brodersen J, Anders Niolsson P, Skov C, Brönmark C (2011) To boldly go: individual differences in boldness influence migratory tendency. Ecol Lett 14:871–876. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01648.x
Cole GL, Endler JA (2016) Male courtship decisions are influenced by light environment and female receptivity. Proc R Soc B 283:20160861. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.0861
Deacon AE, Ramnarine IW, Magurran AE (2011) How reproductive ecology contributes to the spread of a globally invasive fish. PLoS One 6:e24416. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0024416
Dosen LD, Montgomerie R (2004) Female size influences mate preferences of male guppies. Ethology 110:245–255. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2004.00965.x
Dugatkin LA (1992) Tendency to inspect predators predicts mortality risk in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Behav Ecol 3:124–127. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/3.2.124
Endler JA (1978) A predator’s view of animal color patterns. In: Hecht MK, Steere WC, Wallace B (eds) Evolutionary biology. Springer, Boston, pp 319–364
Endler JA (1980) Natural selection on color patterns in Poecilia reticulata. Evolution 34(1):76–91
Endler JA (1987) Predation, light intensity and courtship behaviour in Poecilia reticulata (Pisces: Poeciliidae). Anim Behav 35:1376–1385. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-3472(87)80010-6
Endler JA (1990) On the measurement and classification of colour in studies of animal colour patterns. Biol J Linn Soc 41:315–352
Endler JA, Houde AE (1995) Geographic variation in female preferences for male traits in Poecilia reticulata. Evolution 49:456–468. https://doi.org/10.2307/2410270
Evans JP, Kelley JL (2008) Implications of multiple mating for offspring relatedness and shoaling behaviour in juvenile guppies. Biol Lett 4:623–626. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2008.0423
Evans JP, Kelley JL, Ramnarine IW, Pilastro A (2002) Female behaviour mediates male courtship under predation risk in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Behav Ecol 52:496–502. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-002-0535-6
Fraser DF, Gilliam JF, Akkara JT, Albanese BW, Snider SB (2004) Night feeding by guppies under predator release: effects on growth and daytime courtship. Ecology 85:312–319. https://doi.org/10.1890/03-3023
Gamble S, Lindholm AK, Endler JA, Brooks R (2003) Environmental variation and the maintenance of polymorphism: the effect of ambient light spectrum on mating behaviour and sexual selection in guppies. Ecol Lett 6:463–472. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1461-0248.2003.00449.x
Godin J-GJ (1995) Predation risk and alternative mating tactics in male Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Oecologia 103:224–229. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00329084
Godin J-GJ, Dugatkin LA (1995) Variability and repeatability of female mating preference in the guppy. Anim Behav 49:1427-1433. https://doi.org/10.1016/0003-3472(95)90063-2
Godin J-GJ, Dugatkin LA (1996) Female mating preference for bold males in the guppy, Poecilia reticulata. P Natl Acad Sci USA 93:10262–10267. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.93.19.10262
Harris S, Ramnarine IW, Smith HG, Pettersson LB (2010) Picking personalities apart: estimating the influence of predation, sex and body size on boldness in the guppy Poecilia reticulata. Oikos 119:1711–1718. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0706.2010.18028.x
Harrison XA, Donalseon L, Correa-Cano ME, Evans J, Fisher DN, Goodwin CE, Robinson BS, Hodgson DJ, Inger R (2018) A brief introduction to mixed effects modelling and multi-model inference in ecology. PeerJ 6:e4794. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4794
Heathcote RJP, Darden SK, Franks DW, Ramnarine IW, Croft DP (2017) Fear of predation drives stable and differentiated social relationships in guppies. Sci Rep 7:41679. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep41679
Hoffmann T (2017). SunCalc, https://www.suncalc.org/
Houde AE (1988) The effects of female choice and male-male competition on the mating success of male guppies. Anim Behav 36:888–896. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-3472(88)80171-4
Houde AE (1994) Effect of artificial selection on male colour patterns on mating preference of female guppies. Proc R Soc Lond B 256:125–130. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1994.0059
Houde AE (1997) Sex, color, and mate choice in guppies. Princeton University Press, Princeton
Huntingford FA (1976) The relationship between anti-predator behaviour and aggression among conspecifics in the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. Anim Behav 24:245–260. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0003-3472(76)80034-6
Johansson J, Turesson H, Persson A (2004) Active selection for large guppies, Poecilia reticulata, by the pike cichlid, Crenicichla saxatilis. Oikos 105:595–605. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0030-1299.2004.12938.x
Karino K, Kamada N (2009) Plasticity in courtship and sneaking behaviors depending on tail length in the male guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Ichthyol Res 56:253–259. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10228-008-0093-7
Kelley JL, Phillips SC, Evans JP (2013) Individual consistency in exploratory behaviour and mating tactics in male guppies. Naturwissenschaften 100:965–974. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-013-1097-3
Kemp DJ, Herberstein ME, Fleishman LJ, Endler JA, Bennett ATD, Dyer AG, Hart NS, Marshall J, Whiting MJ (2015) An Integrative Framework for the Appraisal of Coloration in Nature. The American Naturalist 185 (6):705–724
Kemp DJ, Reznick DN, Grether GF, Endler JA (2009) Predicting the direction of ornament evolution in Trinidadian guppies Poecilia reticulata. Proc R Soc Lond B 276:4335–4343. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.1226
Kerman K, Sieving KE, Mary CS, Avery ML (2016) Evaluation of boldness assays and associated behavioral measures in a social parrot, monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus). Behaviour 153:1817–1838
Kortet R, Hendrick A (2007) A behavioural syndrome in the field cricket Gryllus integer: intrasexual aggression is correlated with activity in a novel environment. Biol J Linn Soc 91:475–482. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2007.00812.x
Kotrschal A, Lievens EJ, Dahlbom J, Bundsen A, Semenova S, Sundvik M, Maklakov AA, Winberg S, Panula P, Kolm N (2014) Artificial selection on relative brain size reveals a positive genetic correlation between brain size and proactive personality in the guppy. Evolution 68:1139–1149. https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.12341
Lindholm AK, Breden F, Alexander HJ, Chan W-K, Thakurta SG, Brooks RC (2005) Invasion success and genetic diversity of introduced populations of guppies Poecilia reticulata in Australia. Mol Ecol 14:3671–3682. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02697.x
Lindholm AK, Head ML, Brooks RC, Rollins LA, Ingleby FC, Zajitschek SRK (2014) Causes of male sexual trait divergence in introduced populations of guppies. J Evol Biol 27:437–448. https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.12313
Magellan K, Pettersson LB, Magurran AE (2005) Quantifying male attractiveness and mating behaviour through phenotypic size manipulation in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 58:366–374. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-005-0950-6
Magurran AE, Seghers BH (1990) Risk sensitive courtship in the guppy (Poecilia Reticulata). Behaviour 112:194–201. https://doi.org/10.1163/156853990X00194
Mariette M, Kelley JL, Brooks R, Evans JP (2006) The effects of inbreeding on male courtship behaviour and coloration in guppies. Ethology 112:807–814. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2006.01236.x
Matthews IM, Evans JP, Magurran AE (1997) Male display rate reveals ejaculate characteristics in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Proc R Soc Lond B 264:695–700. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1997.0099
Millar NP, Reznick DN, Kinnison MT, Hendry AP (2006) Disentangling the selective factors that act on male colour in wild guppies. Oikos 113:1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0030-1299.2006.14038.x
Nicoletto PF (1993) Female sexual response to condition-dependent ornaments in the guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Anim Behav 46:441–450. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1993.1213
O’Neill SJ, Williamson JE, Tosetto L, Brown C (2018) Effects of acclimatisation on behavioural repeatability in two behaviour assays of the guppy Poecilia reticulata. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 72:166–111. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-018-2582-7
Pilastro A, Bisazza A (1999) Insemination efficiency of two alternative male mating tactics in the guppy Poecilia reticulata. Proc R Soc Lond B 266:1887–1891. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1999.0862
R Core Team (2018) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Austria http://www.R-project.org
R Development Core Team (2017) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria https://www.R-project.org
Reynolds JD, Gross MD, Coombs MJ (1993) Environmental conditions and male morphology determine alternative mating behaviour in Trinidadian guppies. Anim Behav 45:145–152. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1993.1013
Rice WR (1989) Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evolution 43:223–225. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.1989.tb04220.x
Rodd HF, Sokolowski MB (1995) Complex origins of variation in the sexual behaviour of male Trinidadian guppies, Poecilia reticulata: interactions between social environment, heredity, body size and age. Anim Behav 49:1139–1159. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1995.0149
Satterthwaite FE (1946) An approximate distribution of estimates of variance components. Biometrics 2(6):110–114
Sih A, Bell AM, Johnson JC, Ziemba RE (2004) Behavioral syndromes: an integrative overview. Q Rev Biol 79:241–277. https://doi.org/10.1086/422893
Sih A, Cote J, Evans M, Fogarty S, Pruitt J (2012) Ecological implications of behavioural syndromes. Ecol Lett 15:278–289. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01731.x
Stapley J, Keogh JS (2005) Behavioral syndromes influence mating systems: floater pairs of a lizard have heavier offspring. Behav Ecol 16:514–520. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ari019
Vuong QH (1989) Likelihood ratio tests for model selection and non-nested hypotheses. Econometrica 307–333
The authors warmly thank Andrea Pilastro, David Reznick, Katarina Stuart, Sally Dupont and two anonymous referees for providing constructive comments on the manuscript.
Financial support was provided by the Australian Research Council via Discovery-Projects grant DP160103668.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving animals were approved by and in accordance with the guidelines outlined by the Macquarie University Animal Ethics committee (Approval No. ARA 2017/035-12).
We are grateful to the Queensland Government Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing for granting permission to sample guppies under permit number WITK18612917.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Communicated by A. Pilastro
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
O’Neill, S.J., White, T.E., Lynch, K.E. et al. Male guppies differ in daily frequency but not diel pattern of display under daily light changes. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 73, 157 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-019-2768-7
- Animal behaviour
- Mating behaviour
- Light environment
- Sexual signal