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A comparison of two methods to assess audience-induced changes in male mate choice

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Author(s): Madlen ZIEGE, Carmen HENNIGE-SCHULZ, Frauke MUECKSCH,David BIERBACH, Ralph TIEDEMANN, Bruno STREIT, Martin PLATH

Journal: Current Zoology
ISSN 1674-5507

Volume: 58;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 84;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Communication networks | Male mate choice | Non-independent mate choice | Sexual selection | Sperm competition risk | Audience effect

ABSTRACT
Multidirectional communicative interactions in social networks can have a profound effect on mate choice behavior. Male Atlantic molly Poecilia mexicana exhibit weaker mating preferences when an audience male is presented. This could be a male strategy to reduce sperm competition risk: interacting more equally with different females may be advantageous because rivals might copy mate choice decisions. In line with this hypothesis, a previous study found males to show a strong audience effect when being observed while exercising mate choice, but not when the rival was presented only before the choice tests. Audience effects on mate choice decisions have been quantified in poeciliid fishes using association preference designs, but it remains unknown if patterns found from measuring association times translate into actual mating behavior. Thus, we created five audience treatments simulating different forms of perceived sperm competition risk and determined focal males’ mating preferences by scoring pre-mating (nipping) and mating behavior (gonopodial thrusting). Nipping did not reflect the pattern that was found when association preferences were measured, while a very similar pattern was uncovered in thrusting behavior. The strongest response was observed when the audience could eavesdrop on the focal male’s behavior. A reduction in the strength of focal males’ preferences was also seen after the rival male had an opportunity to mate with the focal male’s preferred mate. In comparison, the reduction of mating preferences in response to an audience was greater when measuring association times than actual mating behavior. While measuring direct sexual interactions between the focal male and both stimulus females not only the male’s motivational state is reflected but also females’ behavior such as avoidance of male sexual harassment [Current Zoology 58 (1): 84–94, 2012].
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