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Female preference for colour-enhanced males: a test of the sensory bias model in medaka, a drab fish

Cite this dataset

Downer-Bartholomew, Benjamin; Rodd, F Helen (2021). Female preference for colour-enhanced males: a test of the sensory bias model in medaka, a drab fish [Dataset]. Dryad.


Sexual selection research has long focused on the evolution of female mate preferences. Most of the models that have been developed posit that mate preferences evolve in a mating context. In contrast, the sensory bias model proposes that mate choice preferences arise in a non-mating context, as a by-product of natural selection acting on a female’s perceptual system. Recent research has shown that many species of fishes, from across a large clade including poeciliids, goodeids, and medaka, have a bias for long wavelength (LW) colors (yellow, orange, red) in a non-mating context. Even species that do not have LW-colored ornaments, apparently because they have been lost secondarily, retain this latent bias for LW colors. Here, we predicted that female Oryzias latipes (Japanese medaka), a drab species with a latent preference for LW colors, would show a mate choice preference for males with an artificial secondary sexual trait—a colored stripe added to their flank. We confirmed that females were more responsive to red and orange objects in a non-mating context than to other colors. We also showed that females were less resistant towards males with a LW-colored stripe than to those enhanced with a non-LW stripe and that, for many females, responses towards specific LW colors were consistent across these non-mating and mating contexts. Therefore, our results provide support for the sensory bias model by providing a link between a sensory bias in a non-mating context and a mate choice preference in a drab species like medaka.


Data set we collected using JWatcher while watching behavioural observations. Data processing was done in JMP©14.0 (SAS Institute, Inc. 2018) for the divided tank data, and in RStudio (ver.1.4.1103) for the free swim data and the comparison across two behavioral contexts; the disc test data were analysed using both software programs.

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