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Rival presence leads to reversible changes in male mate choice of a desert dwelling ungulate

Rival presence leads to reversible changes in male mate choice of a desert dwelling ungulate

Behavioral Ecology 23(3): 551-558

Gregarious animals often face the problem of unintended interception of information by group members, as almost all communicatory interactions occur in a public domain. For example, individuals may observe and copy the choices of others. Male mate choice copying in species with internal fertilization remains a conundrum, as both the copying and the copied male incur increased sperm competition risk (SCR), and males are predicted to evolve strategies to reduce SCR. Specifically, males that are at imminent risk of being copied should cease expressing mating preferences. In this study, we gave male sand gazelles (Gazella marica) an opportunity to choose between 2 stimulus females in a 24-h association preference test, then repeated testing for another 24 h either while an audience male was presented close to the focal male’s compartment or without an audience (control treatment). Overall, focal males were highly consistent in their choices between day 1 and day 2. However, after the audience was presented, they showed a distinct short-term response that lasted for approximately 1 h: focal males altered their preferences, that is, interacted more equally with the 2 females and even tended to spend more time near the initially nonpreferred female. We discuss this effect as a counterstrategy of resident males to reduce SCR arising when new males join the group. In our experiment, habituation to the continued presence of a rival that was experimentally prevented from approaching females may be responsible for why focal males returned to express mating preferences some time after the audience was presented.

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Accession: 036374924

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DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arr223

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