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Sequential female choice and the previous male effect in sticklebacks

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Bakker, T. C. M., & Milinski, M. (1991). Sequential female choice and the previous male effect in sticklebacks. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 29(3), 205-210. doi:10.1007/BF00166402.

Female choice, identified as a major force in sexual selection theory, has recently been demonstrated in a number of species. These tests concentrated on simultaneous choice situations although females have to compare males sequentially in most territorial species, which is the more demanding task. Here it is shown that female three-spined sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus L., rate sequentially presented males according to their brightness. With increasing costs of sampling the females become less choosy. Furthermore, a male's attractiveness has a significant effect on the female's rating of the next male; a given male is rated higher when preceded by a duller male than by a brighter one and vice versa. Female sticklebacks use a stochastic decision rule in sequential mate choice that is attuned to the attractiveness of the present and previously encountered male. This demonstration of a "previous male effect" not only indicates an efficient mechanism for finding the best of a number of males but also extends the applicability of sexual selection theory.