One function of aggression in animals is to gain access to mates. Aggression may therefore be favoured by sexual selection, the strength of which can be assessed using repeatability of aggressive behaviour. Here, we tested the hypotheses that male swordtails, Xiphophorus sp., are consistent in the aggressive and mating behaviours exhibited and in the time spent at a close distance to females (female attendance), and that aggressive males gain increased opportunity to attempt copulation compared to their less aggressive conspecifics (sneak frequency). As predicted, aggression between males, and male display and sneak frequency were repeatable. However, male aggression was not significantly correlated with sneak frequency. The function of aggression in this species is not clear-cut and may have an indirect female access function through formation of dominance hierarchies or defence of resources. A surprising finding highlighted by this study was the contradictory results for consistency in female contact, with high repeatability scores indicating consistency in behaviour but the within-subjects component of repeated measures ANOVA showing differences in female contact between trials. The possible reasons for this discrepancy are discussed.
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Vol. 45 • No. 1