Well-fed males could attract more girls

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Partaking of ample meals will get you the ladies, according to a study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Biology Letters.

he study by Andrew Kahn and coauthors found that female Eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) preferred to associate with male fish that were amply fed and developed normally over those that had suffered from a reduced food intake early in life.

Although the food-deprived males were able to compensate for growth and delay their sexual maturity such that they outwardly resembled normal males in both size and form, the females were able to tell the difference between the two and preferred the normal males.

The authors carried out a series of mate choice experiments in which they presented each focal female with the choice of two males (one normal, one food-deprived) and measured the amount of time the females spent associating with each male.

The authors found that males that are similar in body size, but differ in developmental history, are not equally attractive to females, with the females associating more frequently with the normal males.

The reason for this preference is unclear, although the authors hypothesise that the food-deprived males may be more susceptible to diseases and parasites that could infect females, or that the food-deprived males may in turn sire less healthy offspring.

It is also unclear what cues the females were using to assess the early nutritional status of the males.

The authors think one possibility may be gonopodial length, and another may be swimming performance.

For more information, see the paper: Kahn, AT, JD Livingston and MD Jennions (2012) Do females preferentially associate with males given a better start in life? Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.1106

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