Variation between and within the sexes in body size preferences

Alexandra L. Basolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Although it is often assumed that males and females have mating preferences for larger individuals of the other sex, potential underlying differences between male and female preferences for body size are not commonly investigated. Here, sexual differences in body size preferences are examined in the poeciliid fish, Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora. Females preferred larger males to smaller males, but preference did not appear to be affected by female size. One population-level analysis for males did not indicate an overall preference for larger females. A closer examination, however, revealed an effect of male size on preference; larger males preferred larger females, while smaller males preferred smaller females. It appears then that females, regardless of size, share a preference for large males, but males differ in their behaviour, depending on their body size. In addition, while the degree of difference in size between paired females did not appear to affect male preference, the degree of difference in size between paired males strongly affected female preference; the greater the difference, the more strongly females preferred the larger male. Thus, intersexual selection is found to operate in both sexes, but how it operates appears to differ. Intrasexual and intersexual differences in mating behaviour may be missed when evaluating population-wide preferences. That is, there can be underlying differences in how the sexes respond and the consequences of such differences should be considered when investigating mate choice. The results are considered in terms of the evolution of mating preferences, alternative mating strategies, assortative mating, the maintenance of trait variation in a population, and current methods to evaluate mating preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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