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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: mate choice in glow-worms depends on perceived, not emitted signals


Hopkins, Juhani; Kaitala, Veijo; Kaitala, Arja (2022), Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: mate choice in glow-worms depends on perceived, not emitted signals, Dryad, Dataset,


While the strength of sexual signals is important in mate attraction, the ability to accurately compare signals may also have a major effect on mate choice. Large distances between competitors may reduce competition, as accurate comparison of signals becomes harder. This may be advantageous to weak signallers and detrimental to stronger signallers. We create a mathematical model examining optimal distance from stronger competitors for sexual signallers and test its predictions using the common glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca). Female glow-worms are flightless and attract males by glowing. Males prefer the brightest female if two females are close to each other. Our model gave different predictions depending on whether searchers fly or not. The model and experiment showed that weak signallers should move away from competitors and strong signallers should move closet to weaker competitors when searchers fly. In contrast, the model predicted that the distance between competing signallers has no effect when searchers do not fly. This reveals an unexpected spatial competition between strong and weak signallers. We conclude that while signal strength is important in sexual selection, location in relation to others is similarly important as ornamentation in determining the result of mate attraction.


The data is from sets of 7 glow-worm traps. We used green LEDs to attract males and knew from previous work that males prefer brighter lights. In each set there was one bright LED surrounded by 6 dull LEDs. We varied the distance between the traps so that each trap's distance to its closest neighbours was either 1m or 3m.

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Excel, open source e.g. open office.


Jenny ja Antti Wihurin Rahasto

Academy of Finland, Award: 294664