In some mating systems males should benefit from mating with virgin females because of their higher reproductive value. We determined experimentally whether and how males distinguish between virgin and recently mated females in the guppy, Poecilia reticulata, a promiscuous livebearer. In a free-swimming experiment, males showed flexible mating behaviour by adjusting their tactics according to the mating status of the female they encountered, virgin or mated. Males followed, nipped and copulated with virgins more than with mated females, but they performed more sneaky copulations with mated females, possibly because the latter were more reluctant to mate than virgin females. When, in another set of experiments, males received only the visual cues of both virgins and mated females they showed no preference for either, but when they were exposed only to the female olfactory cues, they associated considerably more with the smell of virgin females. These results suggest that male guppies assess female behavioural and olfactory cues to determine female virginity and then use different mating tactics depending on the female's status. It is possible that the changes in male mating behaviour increase male reproductive success.
Field of Research
060803 Animal Developmental and Reproductive Biology
Socio Economic Objective
970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences