Copying and the repeatability of mate choice
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Models of sexual selection by female choice require heritable variation in female mating preferences in order for sexual selection to operate. However, recent theoretical work shows that female preferences which are transmitted non-genetically can result in exaggeration of male ornamentation. Guppies exhibit both mate copying and considerable heritable variation in female preferences. I studied the importance of these phenomena by measuring repeatability of female mate choice, which acts as an estimate of the upper limit to which a feature may be heritable, and the incidence of mate choice reversal in paired-trial binary mate choice experiments. Mate choice was significantly repeatable except in the treatment where females were given the opportunity to copy a female that contradicted their original choice. Apart from this, I found no evidence that females copy the mate choice of others. The differences between males in ornamentation had no effect on the consistency of female mate choice or the probability that they would reverse their original choice decision (in both controls and the copying experiment). The interval between choice trials did not influence repeatability significantly, indicating that the independence of choice decisions is not related to the time interval between them.
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