Female preference for dynamic traits in the green swordtail, Xiphophorus helleri

Gil G. Rosenthal*, Christophlr S. Evans, William L. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    87 Citations (Scopus)


    Analyses of the relationship between female preference and male behaviour have been complicated by correlated variation in factors such as male size and appearance. This study examined the effects of systematically manipulating male behaviour, while holding male morphology constant. Female green swordtails were shown video-recorded sequences of the same male engaging in an active courtship display, performing similar levels of feeding activity, and remaining inactive. Control sequences of moving food particles and of an empty aquarium were also presented. Female responsiveness was significantly different across time intervals (before, during and after the stimulus) for the three stimuli showing a male, but not for the two controls. Analyses of female behaviour patterns during the stimulus presentations revealed that they preferred sequences of courting males to all other stimuli. Females did not respond differently to the feeding and inactive sequences. These results indicate that female interest depends upon a specific set of motor patterns, and suggest that male behaviour and morphology may act synergistically to determine female preference. Video stimuli should prove useful in future experiments seeking to identify the role of specific courtship motor patterns in mate choice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)811-820
    Number of pages10
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1996

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