In recent decades, variation in female preferences within a species has attracted considerable attention. However, how female individuals in most species change their mate preferences remain unclear. In this study, we examined the change in mate preferences in female individuals of the guppy, Poecilia reticulata. This was done by exposing naïve, virgin females to two male groups differing in the abundance of ornamented males over a period of seven days. The male-exposure treatment groups consisted of (1) primarily males with large orange spots and (2) primarily males with small orange spots. Following each treatment, we measured female preference for brightly colored males with large orange spots, using a pair of digitally modified male images differing in orange spot patterns. Our results indicated that the patterns of change in mate preferences differed between young and old females. After exposure to primarily males with large orange spots, young females were more attracted to the male images overall and showed a preference for the bright male image. Specifically, young females showed a stronger preference for the bright male image when they had been exposed to male groups in which the among-male difference in orange spot patterns was greater. However, in old females, both male-exposure treatments and order of the treatments affected their mate preferences. These results suggest that social components, i.e., both the abundance of ornamented males and the age structure of females in a population, influence the direction and intensity of sexual selection.
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Vol. 34 • No. 6