Evidence of female-promoted polyandry in Trinidadian guppies

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Maria Dornelas and Andrew Baird for providing helpful comments on early drafts. This study was funded by a PhD fellowship to MB from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal. This project was carried out at the Gatty Marine Laboratory, and as such was subject to regular inspection by both the Home Office Inspector and the University Vet and complied with current UK animal welfare and health and safety regulations.

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Correspondence to Miguel Barbosa.

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Barbosa, M., Magurran, A.E. Evidence of female-promoted polyandry in Trinidadian guppies. Environ Biol Fish 90, 95–102 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-010-9721-y

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Keywords

  • Polyandry
  • Sexual conflict
  • Sexual harassment
  • Mating behaviour
  • Mating preference
  • Poecilia reticulata