Arun Dayanandan

Concordia University
Background predation risk and female mate choice in Trinidadian guppies

Arun Dayanandan, Grant E. Brown

While female non-random mate choice is a major driver of male secondary sexual characteristics in a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic organisms, little is known about the behavioural trade-offs associated with mate selection and courtship in predator-rich environments. As animals engaging in courtship and mating are more vulnerable to predation, natural selection should strongly favour female early detection ability of predation risk and threat-sensitive modification of reproductive behaviours. Within aquatic systems, prey rely on publicly available threat-sensitive chemosensory cues for early detection of predation risk. It is hypothesized that females reared under elevated predation risk will select for mates with muted secondary sexual characteristics and reduce decision-making time in order to minimize predation risk. In the current experiment, female Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) reared under simulated visual and chemical predation risk are given a choice between paired potential mates of differing coloration. Females from the elevated predation risk group are expected to spend more time near mute coloured males, make faster decisions between males, and spend less time moving between choices than those reared in a low predation environment. As human-induced rapid environmental change drives changing predator-prey dynamics, this research will garner insight into potential impacts of novel selective pressures on reproductive decision-making behaviours.