Female choice and the relatedness of mates in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title






First Page


Last Page





genetic compatibility, inbreeding depression, mate choice, cryptic female choice, sperm competition


Several studies suggest that females may offset the costs of genetic incompatibility by exercising precopulatory or post-copulatory mate choice to bias paternity toward more compatible males. One source of genetic incompatibility is the degree of relatedness among mates; unrelated males are expected to be genetically more compatible with a female than her relatives. To address this idea, we investigated the potential for inbreeding depression and paternity biasing mechanisms (pre- and post-copulatory) of inbreeding avoidance in the guppy, Poecilia reticulata. Inbreeding resulted in a reduction in offspring number and quality. Females mated to siblings gave birth to significantly fewer offspring compared to females mated to non-siblings and inbred male offspring took longer to reach sexual maturity. There was no evidence of inbreeding avoidance in pre- copulatory behaviors of females or males. Sexual responsiveness of females to courting males and the number of sexual behaviors males directed at females did not decrease as a function of the relatedness of the two individuals. We also tested whether female guppies can use post-copulatory mechanisms to bias sperm usage toward unrelated males by comparing the number of offspring produced by females mated to two of their siblings ( SS), two males unrelated to the female (NN), or to one unrelated male and a sibling male (NS). We found that NS females produced a number of offspring not significantly different than what would be expected if fertilization success were halfway between completely outbreeding ( NN) and completely inbreeding ( SS) females. This suggests that there is no significant improvement in the number of offspring produced by females mating to both related and unrelated males, relative to that which would be expected if sperm from both males were used equally. Our results suggest that female guppies do not discriminate against closely related males or their sperm.