Versara Goberdhan, Iulia Darolti, Judith E. Mank, Alberto Corral-Lopez. 2023. Experience with mating receptivity cues affects sexual behaviour of male guppies, but not their strength of preference towards receptive females. bioRxiv
Females are traditionally presented as the choosier sex, selecting males based on the quality of their traits. Yet, there is increasing evidence that male mate choice is also important, even in species without male parental care. Social environment and learning are key factors in determining mate preference, and animals are able to use the information they gather from previous experience to potentially increase their odds of obtaining a high-quality mate. We examined how the social environment affects male mate choice in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). We evaluated whether male guppies with previous social experience of female receptivity cues learn to prefer and adapt their behavioural repertoire towards females with higher receptiveness levels, as this represents an optimal use of time and energy and is more likely to result in insemination. For this, we measured sexual preference and behaviour for receptive females in no-choice and dichotomous choice tests using guppy males experienced or naïve to female receptivity cues. Experience with receptivity cues did not change the strength of preference towards receptive females. However, male guppies that had previous experience with female receptivity cues adapted their mating tactic compared to naïve males. The change in mating tactics but lack of preference towards receptive females shows that the influence of social learning is present but might be weaker than predicted in this species. Furthermore, these results provide further support to studies of female mate choice suggesting mating status is not a key factor driving the strength of sexual preferences in natural populations.