Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 435–446 | Cite as

Mate-choice copying when both sexes face high costs of reproduction

  • Joachim G. FrommenEmail author
  • Anna K. Rahn
  • Stefanie H. Schroth
  • Nadine Waltschyk
  • Theo C. M. Bakker
Original Paper


Mate choice is linked to costs such as time and energy effort or a higher risk of predation. Furthermore, reproduction with a partner of lower than average quality will reduce an individual’s fitness. Copying the mate choice of others is assumed to reduce such costs. Most studies dealing with mate-choice copying focused on females, as they are usually expected to invest more into reproduction. However, in species where males provide brood care both sexes face high costs. Little is known about mate-choice copying in such mating systems. Male three-spined sticklebacks build nests and care for the offspring alone, facing a high-reproductive investment. Thus, one would expect that both males and females copy the mate choice of others. We gave male and female sticklebacks the opportunity to court either a partner that was visibly courted by another individual or a partner that was not visibly courted. Both spent significantly more time courting next to con-specifics after another individual has visibly courted them. Habituation effects, territorial defence or shoaling behaviour as alternative explanations were excluded by control experiments. The adaptive significance of mate-choice copying is not well understood. The results of this study indicate that in sticklebacks both sexes may reduce the costs of mate choice by copying the preferences of others.


Public information Mutual mate choice Sexual selection Fish Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus 



We would like to thank Ricarda Modarressie, Timo Thünken, Ingolf Rick and Julia Schwarzer for discussion. We thank Ricarda Modarressie for catching and Julia Strelau for caring for the sticklebacks and Peter Herold for help in building the set-up. Marion Mehlis assisted in conducting the experiments. Thomas Schaper and Jürgen Wittler gave the permission to catch sticklebacks at the field site. JGF is grateful to Klaus Peter Sauer for financial support. This study adhered to the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour/Animal Behaviour Society Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research. All experiments complied with the current laws of Germany.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim G. Frommen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anna K. Rahn
    • 1
  • Stefanie H. Schroth
    • 1
  • Nadine Waltschyk
    • 1
  • Theo C. M. Bakker
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Evolutionary Biology and EcologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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