, Volume 116, Issue 2–3, pp 343–358

Variation in Female Mate Choice within Guppy Populations: Population Divergence, Multiple Ornaments and the Maintenance of Polymorphism

  • Robert Brooks


The evolutionary significance of variation in mate choice behaviour is currently a subject of some debate and considerable empirical study. Here, I review recent work on variation within and among guppy (Poecilia reticulata) populations in female mate choice and mating preferences. Empirical results demonstrate that there is substantial variation within and among populations in female responsiveness and choosiness, and much of this variation is genetic. Evidence for variation in preference functions also exists, but this appears to be more equivocal and the relative importance of genetic variation is less clear cut. In the second half of this review I discuss the potential significance of this variation to three important evolutionary issues: the presence of multiple male ornaments, the maintenance of polymorphism and divergence in mate recognition among populations. Studies of genetic variation in mate choice within populations indicate that females have complex, multivariate preferences that are able to evolve independently to some extent. These findings suggest that the presence of multiple male ornaments may be due to multiple female mating preferences. The extreme polymorphism in male guppy colour patterns demands explanation, yet no single satisfactory explanation has yet emerged. I review several old ideas and a few new ones in order to identify the most promising potential explanations for future empirical testing. Among these are negative frequency dependent selection, environmental heterogeneity coupled with gene flow, and genetic constraints. Last, I review the relative extent of within and among-population variation in mate choice and mating preferences in order to assess why guppies have not speciated despite a history of isolation and divergence. I argue that variation within guppy populations in mate choice and enhanced mating success of new immigrants to a pool are major impediments to population divergence of the magnitude that would be required for speciation to occur.

frequency dependence guppy heritability mate choice polymorphism preference repeatability speciation variation 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Brooks
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesThe University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia (Phone

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