University of Oulu

Hopkins, J., Kaitala, V. and Kaitala, A. (2022), Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: mate choice in glow-worms depends on perceived, not emitted signals. Oikos, 2022: e09468.

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

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Author: Hopkins, Juhani1,2; Kaitala, Veijo3; Kaitala, Arja1,2
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Research Group, Univ. of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Tvärminne Zoological Station, Univ. of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
3Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Univ. of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-06-06


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 closer 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.

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Series: Oikos
ISSN: 0030-1299
ISSN-E: 1600-0706
ISSN-L: 0030-1299
Volume: 2022
Issue: 12
Article number: e09468
DOI: 10.1111/oik.09468
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: JH was funded by the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation. AK received a grant from the Academy of Finland (grant no. 294664).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 294664
Detailed Information: 294664 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Data are available from the Dryad Digital Repository: <> (Hopkins et al. 2022).
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Oikos published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.