Male display rate reveals ejaculate characteristics in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata.

I. M. Matthews, J. P. Evans, A. E. Magurran

Abstract

Previous work (Reynolds and Gross 1992) has demonstrated that mate choice enables female guppies, Poecilia reticulata, to obtain heritable benefits (‘good genes’) for their offspring. It is not yet known whether males also signal their functional fertility, that is, their viability as fathers, to female guppies. Our study tested the hypothesis that a male's behaviour reveals characteristics of his ejaculate. We uncovered a strong correlation between display rate and sperm number in male guppies derived from two wild Trinidadian populations. This result indicates that information on the functional fertility of potential mates is available to females. However, our investigation also found a significant relationship between the frequency of sneaky mating and sperm number. Female guppies in wild populations, particularly those experiencing a high predation regime, are constantly subjected to sneaky mating attempts. As the males responsible for these sneaky matings have highest reserves of sperm they may have the capacity to undermine female choice. The implications of these findings for sperm competition are discussed.

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