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The link between brain size, cognitive ability, mate choice and sexual behaviour in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata)
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7784-0209
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Competition over access for mates has led to the evolution of many striking examples of morphological traits and behaviour in animals. The rapid development of the sexual selection field in recent decades have dramatically advanced our understanding of what traits make individuals more successful in attracting mates and how preferences for mates evolve over time. However, till now, research in this field has put less emphasis on the mechanisms that underlie variation in mate choice and sexual behaviour. Cognitive processes could potentially be key drivers of individual variation in mating preferences and sexual behaviours and therefore deserve further investigation. In this thesis, I used guppies artificially selected for relative brain size as the model system to study the association between brain size, cognitive ability and various aspects of mate choice. Previous studies in this model system showed that large-brained individuals of both sexes outperformed small-brained individuals in cognitive tests. Here I quantified their sexual behaviours and mating preferences to provide novel empirical data concerning the association between brain size, cognitive ability and sexual selection. In dichotomous choice preference tests based on visual cues, comparisons between large-brained and small-brained guppies showed important differences in their assessment of mate quality. These results are not driven by pre-existing visual biases caused by the artificial selection since further investigation of the visual capacity of these fish detected no differences between large-brained and small-brained individuals in their sensitivity to colour or in their capacity to resolve spatial detail. I also quantified sexual behaviour in male guppies artificially selected for relative brain size and found no difference in the behaviours of large-brained and small-brained males in a single male-single female non-competitive scenario. On the contrary, in a more complex social setting I found a reduction in large-brained males in the rate of courtship towards females and dominance displays towards other males when exposed to different degrees of predation threat and different numbers of male competitors. However, this reduction in behavioural intensity did not result in a lower access to copulation with females for large-brained males. I likewise evaluated female sexual behaviour and found that large-brained females had higher behavioural flexibility such that they decreased their receptiveness towards males more strongly under higher levels of predation threat. Together, these results provide novel empirical evidence that brain size and cognitive ability are tightly linked to mating preferences and sexual behaviours. These findings suggest that brain size and cognitive ability might be important mechanisms behind variation in mating preferences and in sexually selected traits across and within species.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University , 2017.
Keywords [en]
sexual selection, artificial selection, brain evolution, optomotor test, decision-making, discrimination, assessment, optimal decisions, rational choice, behavioural flexibility, expensive tissue, predation, sex ratio, OSR, maintenance of variation
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148547ISBN: 978-91-7797-045-3 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-046-0 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-148547DiVA, id: diva2:1153273
Public defence
2017-12-15, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-11-22 Created: 2017-10-29 Last updated: 2017-11-15Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Female brain size affects the assessment of male attractiveness during mate choice
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2017 (English)In: Science Advances, ISSN 0036-8156, E-ISSN 2375-2548, Vol. 3, no 3, article id e1601990Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Mate choice decisions are central in sexual selection theory aimed to understand how sexual traits evolve and their role in evolutionary diversification. We test the hypothesis that brain size and cognitive ability are important for accurate assessment of partner quality and that variation in brain size and cognitive ability underlies variation in mate choice. We compared sexual preference in guppy female lines selected for divergence in relative brain size, which we have previously shown to have substantial differences in cognitive ability. In a dichotomous choice test, large-brained and wild-type females showed strong preference for males with color traits that predict attractiveness in this species. In contrast, small-brained females showed no preference for males with these traits. In-depth analysis of optomotor response to color cues and gene expression of key opsins in the eye revealed that the observed differences were not due to differences in visual perception of color, indicating that differences in the ability to process indicators of attractiveness are responsible. We thus provide the first experimental support that individual variation in brain size affects mate choice decisions and conclude that differences in cognitive ability may be an important underlying mechanism behind variation in female mate choice.

National Category
Evolutionary Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142713 (URN)10.1126/sciadv.1601990 (DOI)000397044000040 ()28345039 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2017-05-04 Created: 2017-05-04 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
2. Brain size affects the judgment of female quality during male mate choice
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Brain size affects the judgment of female quality during male mate choice
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148542 (URN)
Available from: 2017-10-29 Created: 2017-10-29 Last updated: 2017-11-09Bibliographically approved
3. On the role of body size, brain size and eye size in visual acuity
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the role of body size, brain size and eye size in visual acuity
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148544 (URN)
Available from: 2017-10-29 Created: 2017-10-29 Last updated: 2017-10-30Bibliographically approved
4. No association between brain size and male sexual behavior in the guppy
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2015 (English)In: Current Zoology, ISSN 1674-5507, Vol. 61, no 2, p. 265-273Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Animal behavior is remarkably variable at all taxonomic levels. Over the last decades, research on animal behavior has focused on understanding ultimate processes. Yet, it has progressively become more evident that to fully understand behavioral variation, ultimate explanations need to be complemented with proximate ones. In particular, the mechanisms generating variation in sexual behavior remain an open question. Variation in aspects of brain morphology has been suggested as a plausible mechanism underlying this variation. However, our knowledge of this potential association is based almost exclusively on comparative analyses. Experimental studies are needed to establish causality and bridge the gap between micro-and macroevolutionary mechanisms concerning the link between brain and sexual behavior. We used male guppies that had been artificially selected for large or small relative brain size to study this association. We paired males with females and scored the full known set of male and female sexual behaviors described in guppies. We found several previously demonstrated associations between male traits, male behavior and female behavior. Females responded more strongly towards males that courted more and males with more orange coloration. Also, larger males and males with less conspicuous coloration attempted more coerced copulations. However, courting, frequency of coerced copulation attempts, total intensity of sexual behavior, and female response did not differ between large-and small-brained males. Our data suggest that relative brain size is an unlikely mechanism underlying variation in sexual behavior of the male guppy. We discuss these findings in the context of the conditions under which relative brain size might affect male sexual behavior

Keywords
Brain size, Brain morphology, Sexual behavior, Guppy, Artificial selection, Behavioral mechanisms
National Category
Zoology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116759 (URN)10.1093/czoolo/61.2.265 (DOI)000351612300005 ()
Note

AuthorCount:5;

Available from: 2015-05-12 Created: 2015-04-27 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
5. Brain size, environmental complexity and mating behaviour
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Brain size, environmental complexity and mating behaviour
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148545 (URN)
Available from: 2017-10-29 Created: 2017-10-29 Last updated: 2017-10-30Bibliographically approved

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