Social eavesdropping can guide mate choice and the assessment of competitor quality. In the endangered Leon Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon bovinus), males establish breeding territories that they defend from conspecifics and heterospecific egg predators. Females enter the breeding area to assess males and spawn in their territories. It was hypothesized that male and female C. bovinus eavesdrop on social interactions within male territories to evaluate each territorial male’s ability to exclude intruders and attract potential mates. Using a repeated design, a bottle containing either a female C. bovinus, a non-territorial male C. bovinus, a swarm of G. nobilis, or water was placed at the centre of a male’s territory. Territorial males received more spawns and females spawned more frequently per visit when a female stimulus was present. These results suggest that females eavesdrop to inform their mating decisions, but this may be limited to the assessment of extra-pair females within territories.
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