No pre-existing bias in sailfin molly females, Poecilia latipinna, for a sword in males

In: Behaviour
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The origination of female mate preference is still not well known and may depend on genetic predispositions, social environment and sensory stimuli in the environment. Females of different populations, which live in different environments, may therefore differ in a pre-existing bias for male traits. Previous studies within the genus Xiphophorus and Priapella (Poeciliidae) have indicated that females have a latent preference for a sword in males, even though conspecific males do not express a sword. In a recent study Basolo (2002a) found such a pre-existing bias for artificially sworded males in sailfin molly females from a Louisiana population. To investigate whether Poecilia latipinna females exhibit in general a pre-existing bias for sworded males or whether populations differ in a pre-existing female preference for sworded males, we tested P. latipinna females from a Texas population for a latent preference for sworded males. We tested in video playback experiments whether sailfin molly females P. latipinna have a latent preference for males with an artificial coloured plastic sword on TV monitors. Using video playbacks we first showed in a conditioning experiment that females perceived yellow plastic swords. Females preferred to associate with conspecific males to conspecific females on TV monitors. Females, however, did not exhibit a preference for males with a coloured sword over males with a transparent sword. Our result contradicts results of a previous study showing that sailfin molly females from a different population exhibited a preference for live males with an artificial sword. Pre-existing biases for novel male traits in females may differ between populations within a species. Thus, environmental factors may influence the development of pre-existing biases and might, therefore, drive the evolution of latent preferences in different populations differently.

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