Hanging out with sexy friends is a great way to escape the unwanted attention of amorous males.
In a study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Josefine Brask and coauthors have found that female guppies (Poecilia reticulata) were able to use the company of more attractive females to deflect attention and significantly reduce sexual harassment from males.
The authors carried out three sets of experiments, with the first demonstrating that non-receptive females were harassed less when they were paired with a more sexually attractive (receptive) female than with another non-receptive female.
The second set of experiments showed that females then exploited this as a strategy to reduce sexual harassment; non-receptive females actively preferred to associate with receptive over non-receptive females.
The final set of experiments showed that non-receptive females continue to show this preference even when given only chemical cues, implying that they use information from chemical cues to assess the sexual attractiveness of potential female partners.
By contrast, receptive females did not show any of the preferences demonstrated above and were unreceptive to the chemical cues, supporting the assumption that receptive females do not have a strong incentive to reduce male attention.
The authors propose that this strategy represents an important pathway by which females can construct social niches that influence the decision-making of others to their advantage.
For more information, see the paper: Brask, JB, DP Croft, K Thompson, T Dabelsteen and SK Darden (2012) Social preferences based on sexual attractiveness: a female strategy to reduce male sexual attention. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.2212
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.