A new study has found that female guppies are also plagued by unwanted male gaze. They are so plagued by male guppy sexual harassment, according to the new research, that they become better swimmers to outpace their male suitors.
The study, published in Functional Ecology and authored by researchers from the University of Glasgow and the University of Exeter, looked at how female guppies reacted to five months of aggression by males. The researchers found that compared to females who weren't harassed, the female victims became more efficient swimmers.
Co-author Shaun Killen explained in a statement that "typically, male reproductive success is limited by access to females, and males of many species will try to overcome this using a number of behaviours, such as chasing and even attacking females in an attempt to gain a mating." He continued: "these types of behaviours are considered sexually harassing as males are attempting to coerce females into mating with them." Sound familiar?
Brightly colored male guppies are designed to attract females and, also, predators. A 2002 study from Behavioral Ecology points out that male guppies are at greater risk of being eaten. The authors write:
Our experimental behavioral results indicate that bright and conspicuous body coloration, a known sexually selected trait (Houde, 1997), in male guppies incurs a direct fitness cost, in terms of an increase in individual risk of mortality to predation.
Guppy dating sounds rough.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.