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Anim Behav. 2000 Feb;59(2):273-280.

Females of the lekking great snipe do not prefer males with whiter tails.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Abstract

A previous experimental study of great snipe, Gallinago media, has reported an effect on male mating success of the amount of white in their tails. That result is one of a very limited set of existing experimental results supporting a female mate preference for a morphological trait in animals. However, a later observational study did not find any correlation between amount of white and male mating success. If females sample a limited number of males, their preferences need not result in strong relationships between mating success and trait values in males, possibly explaining the failure to find the predicted correlation. Yet, females of lekking species are thought to have ample opportunities for mate sampling. To resolve these contrasting results, we present in this paper (1) a larger correlational study (several leks during 10 years) showing no relationship between male mating success and whiteness of tails (measured in several ways), and most importantly (2) evidence that individual females do not mate predominantly with males with very white tails among those males that each female samples. These results show that females do not prefer males with whiter tails as mates, within the contemporary natural variation in the trait. They also show that there is no sexual selection of the trait at present. This does not necessarily imply that white tails are not a sexually selected adaptation in males, but the mechanisms are likely to have been different from direct mate choice of whiter tails per se. Copyright 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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