Does Individual Variation in Male Mate Choice Copying Reflect Differences in Social Responsiveness?

During mate choice copying (MCC), individuals evaluate the attractiveness of potential mating partners while observing if they are preferred or rejected by other individuals. Numerous studies have examined female MCC, while its role during male mate choice received far less attention. Using western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) as our study organism, we asked if individual focal males would spend more time associating with the previously rejected female of a pair of stimulus females (a large- and a small-bodied female) after they had observed another (model) male consort the rejected female. We used the resulting ‘copying scores’ to test if individual variation in MCC can be explained as part of a larger behavioural syndrome (i.e., social responsiveness). In one experiment, we assessed focal males’ copying tendencies and then tested them in another context of socially-dependent mate choice (audience effects). Males with high copying tendencies were also more likely to respond to rival presence by showing audience effects (concealment of mating preferences). In another experiment, we assessed copying tendencies and behavioral correlates of boldness, activity and sociability (shoaling tendencies) of the focal males. All three traits were correlated, but did not predict male copying tendencies. Altogether, our results suggest that male MCC may indeed be part of a social responsiveness syndrome (explaining correlated responses in two contexts of socially-dependent mate choice), but this syndrome seems to be independent of standard behavioral parameters widely used to quantify animal personality traits.

Author(s): Guilherme Gomes-Silva, Kai Liu, Bojian Chen, Martin Plath and Carolin Sommer- Trembo

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