Male mate preference is influenced by both female behaviour and morphology

Lindsey Swierk, Abigail Myers, Tracy Langkilde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Males of many species prefer females that are more fecund, novel and/or sexually receptive. Males assess the desirability of potential mates using female morphological traits, including size and sexual coloration, or olfactory cues. However, few studies have directly examined how female behaviour influences male mate choice, which is surprising because males often respond strongly to female behaviours. We examined factors influencing male preference using the eastern fence lizard, Sceloporus undulatus, a species with a large repertoire of behavioural displays. Males were presented with two tethered females in a paired choice test, and we measured the time that males spent associating with and courting (shuddering to) each female. We recorded female behaviour, including approach to and retreat from the male, sidlehopping (a rejection behaviour) and pushups. Males associated more with females that (1) approached and retreated from them, (2) did not sidlehop and (3) had relatively higher body condition. Likewise, males shuddered more to females that approached and retreated from them. Approach and retreat behaviours may advertise a female's readiness to mate, as these behaviours can heighten male interest, suggesting that males may be most likely to invest in courtship once females indicate their willingness to mate. Neither the female's pushup behaviour nor her snout-vent length influenced a male's tendency to associate with or court her. These results provide evidence that female behaviour has an important influence on male courtship behaviour. Incorporating measures of female behaviour into future studies on male mate choice may be illuminating and provide a greater ability to predict male preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1451-1457
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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