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Title: Multiple cues and variation in mate-choice behaviour
Author: Fawcett, T. W.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2003
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This thesis addresses two major questions commonly overlooked in studies of mate choice: how do animals use multiple cues to assess potential males, and why might there be substantial variation in mating preferences? I investigate these problems using a combination of mathematical models and choice-chamber experiments on the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata. I begin (Chapter 2) with a simple experiment to establish the consistency of mate preferences in female zebra finches. Consistency across repeated tests is not affected by experience of the parental phenotypes early in life. Interestingly, I find that the repeatability of two commonly used measures of preference is much lower than that for a third measure, hopping rate. Empirical studies have found evidence for multiple indicators of quality in several species, but less attention has been paid to how choosing individuals assess such multicomponent displays. In Chapter 3 I review published experiments on female choice using multiple cues, and conclude that preferences for multiple cues can only be demonstrated by independent manipulation of these cues. Costs of assessing cues and interactions between preferences for multiple cues are two topics that should be addressed in future research. Previous theoretical work has looked at multiple cues from the signaller’s point of view. In Chapter 4 I tackle the issue from the receiver’s perspective, constructing a model to predict the optimal strategy for assessing multiple cues. I find that the choosing sex should prioritise these cues differently depending on their own choosiness and the abundance of desirable mates. Counter-intuitively, the model predicts that animals should sometimes prioritise less accurate cues. In Chapter 5 I investigate female preferences for multiple cues in the zebra finch by experimentally manipulating beak colour and leg-band colour. In contrast to some widely cited studies. I find no overall preference for either of these cues, but substantial variation between females.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available