Choosiness, a neglected aspect of preference functions: a review of methods, challenges and statistical approaches.

Journal of comparative physiology. A, Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology

PubMedID: 25398575

Reinhold K, Schielzeth H. Choosiness, a neglected aspect of preference functions: a review of methods, challenges and statistical approaches. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2014;.
Animals are faced with many choices and a very important one is the choice of a mating partner. Inter-individual differences in mating preferences have been studied for some time, but most studies focus on the location of the peak preference rather than on other aspects of preference functions. In this review, we discuss the role of variation in choosiness in inter-sexual selection. We define individual-level choosiness as the change in mating propensity in response to different stimulus signals. We illustrate general issues in estimating aspects of preference functions and discuss experimental setups for quantifying variation in choosiness with a focus on choices based on acoustic signals in insects. One important consideration is whether preferences are measured sequentially one stimulus at a time or in competitive multiple-choice setups; the suitability of these alternatives depends on the ecology of the study species. Furthermore, we discuss the usefulness of behavioural proxies for determining preference functions, which can be misleading if the proxies are not linearly related to mating propensity. Finally, we address statistical approaches, including the use of function-valued trait analysis, for studying choosiness. Most of the conclusions can be generalized beyond acoustic signals in insects and to choices in non-sexual contexts.