In guppy courtship, the unusual male wins | 11/13/2018 | Staff
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When it comes to choosing a mate, female guppies often go for the mates with the flashiest, most interesting color patterns.

But why is that? Turns out, it's all about psychology.

Study - Florida - State - University - Researchers

In a new study, Florida State University researchers found that these tiny, tropical fish often choose a mate that physically stands out from the rest of the pack because of a common type of learning called habituation. Through habituation, animals—in this case guppies—stop responding to a stimulus after prolonged exposure.

In other words, the female guppy is often immune to the charms of a male guppy that looks like all the other male guppies. Ones with unusual color patterns stand a better chance at successfully wooing a mate.

Patterns - Past - Mitchel - Daniel - Researcher

"If they've seen certain patterns in the past, they've gotten used to them," said Mitchel Daniel, a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor of Biological Science Kimberly Hughes. "But when a male guppy comes along with a novel pattern, they're not used to it, so they find that male more attractive. We've shown that this attraction to the unusual happens because of habituation, which means that females tune out repetitive information, and pay more attention to things that look different."

Their study is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Team - Research - Study - Hughes - Years

The team's research builds on a study Hughes conducted several years ago that found that guppies' color patterns did seem to influence mate choice. When Daniel came to work in Hughes' lab, he wanted to explore the psychological theory of habituation and whether that explained how female guppies choose mates.

"It's been hard to figure out," Hughes said. "Why do females have that preference? That's...
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