Vladislav Melnikov, “Rational Transitive Mate Choice in Enchenopa binotata Treehoppers (Hemipera: Membracidae)”
Mentor: Rafael Rodríguez Sevilla, Biological Sciences
Mate choice is a crucial decision for females. Mate choice decisions are based on mate preference functions, which are curves that describe the relationship between the attractiveness of sexual ornaments and variation in their features. One possibility for how mate choice decisions relate to preference functions involves rationality, whereby females always select the male with the preferred traits when in the presence of less-preferred males. A competing alternative — with support from humans and some vertebrates — involves irrationality, whereby the presence of very low or very high quality males can cause females to alter their preferences in the available mates. We test whether treehoppers use rational choice to select mates, and predict that responsiveness will be higher for preferred male signals regardless whether a decoy was presented. Using vibrational playback stimuli that varied in a single variable, frequency, we presented females with preferred and less-preferred males in the presence or absence of attractive and unattractive decoy males. We found that females selected the preferred males over the less-preferred males regardless of the presence of a decoy or the quality of the decoy. These findings show that Enchenopa treehoppers use rational mate choice.
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