Brain size affects responsiveness in mating behaviour to variation in predation pressure and sex ratio

Alberto Corral-López*, Maksym Romensky, Alexander Kotrschal, Severine D. Buechel, Niclas Kolm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Despite ongoing advances in sexual selection theory, the evolution of mating decisions remains enigmatic. Cognitive processes often require simultaneous processing of multiple sources of information from environmental and social cues. However, little experimental data exist on how cognitive ability affects such fitness-associated aspects of behaviour. Using advanced tracking techniques, we studied mating behaviours of guppies artificially selected for divergence in relative brain size, with known differences in cognitive ability, when predation threat and sex ratio was varied. In females, we found a general increase in copulation behaviour in when the sex ratio was female biased, but only large-brained females responded with greater willingness to copulate under a low predation threat. In males, we found that small-brained individuals courted more intensively and displayed more aggressive behaviours than large-brained individuals. However, there were no differences in female response to males with different brain size. These results provide further evidence of a role for female brain size in optimal decision-making in a mating context. In addition, our results indicate that brain size may affect mating display skill in male guppies. We suggest that it is important to consider the association between brain size, cognitive ability and sexual behaviour when studying how morphological and behavioural traits evolve in wild populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-177
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
Early online date14 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • decision-making
  • guppies
  • OSR
  • Poecilia reticulata
  • sexual behaviour
  • sexual selection
  • skill


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